In 1520, the nearly-50-year-old German artist Albrecht Dürer travelled to the Low Countries. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I had just died, and his grandson Charles V was about to be crowed in Aachen as his successor. Dürer, both fleeing plague in his hometown of Nuremberg and seeking to confirm with the new emperor the continuation of his pension, roamed widely for more than a year throughout what is now the Netherlands and Belgium. Dürer meticulously recorded his experience and observations in a journal that miraculously (and fortunately for us) has survived. As memorialized in the journal, the curiosity that guided Dürer’s path was frequently rewarded; among other things, he was among the first to see the incredible first shipment of Aztec treasures that Hernán Cortés shipped back to Europe from his first voyage to Mexico as they were unloaded in Antwerp.
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