Although his senior by 31 years, Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530) was one of Dürer's closest friends. Pirckheimer may have been Dürer's companion for at least part of his first journey to Venice, and Dürer's ten recorded letters to him, written during his second sojourn in Italy, are amongst the most important written documents by Dürer to have survived. Pirckheimer was from a wealthy Nuremberg patrician family, educated at the universities of Padua and Pavia, a bon-vivant and close friend of Erasmus he was one of the leading humanists in Germany. In 1499 Pirckheimer was chosen by the City Council to command their contingent of troops in the Imperial army during the Swabian War against the Swiss. On his return he was presented with a gold cup by the City, which may feature in Dürer's Nemesis (see lot 39).
As Jane Cambell Hutchinson wrote, 'Without Pirckheimer's friendship (...) there would probably have been a different Albrecht Dürer, for Prickheimer bore much of the responsibility for having exposed the artist to the literature and the ideals of the Italian Renaissance, as well as to those of the ancient world. It was Pirckheimer and his friend Konrad Celtis, with their fluent command of ancient Greek, Latin and modern Italian, who made literary sources available to Dürer which the artist would not have read for himself, and whose friendship offered Dürer entry into a level of society which he could not have penetrated on his own.' (Hutchinson, p. 48)
After the death in 1560 of the last of Dürer's immediate family Pirckheimer's grandson Willibald Imhoff bought the remaining Dürer collections and papers. Most of Pirckheimer's own library, famous in its day, was sold by another Imhoff descendent to the Earl of Arundel in 1636. Much of this passed via the collection of Sir Hans Sloane to the British Library. Like Dürer, Erasmus is buried in the cemetery of the Johannis-kirche in Nuremberg.