Because of its blue feathers, the European roller, which used to be endemic throughout the Continent and makes a crow-like noise (“rak, rak, rak”), is also known as Blue roller. Dürer dealt with the bird twice in two fastidiously executed paintings on parchment: in the one he drew the dead bird’s entire plumage, while in the sheet presented here he concentrated on one of its colourful wings. The purpose for which this virtuoso masterpiece was intended is debatable. One the one hand it is a meticulously observed and accurately rendered nature study of the wing, which the artist indeed had in front of him in the form it is depicted here; on the other hand, this wing of a blue roller is based on a thoroughly thought-out compositional scheme.
Willibald Imhoff (1519-1580), Nürnberg (Kunstbuch, Verzeichnis 1588, Zeichnung 20: \"Ein Flügel auf Pergamen.\"); 1588 an Kaiser Rudolf II.; Kaiserliche Schatzkammer; seit 1783 Kaiserliche Hofbibliothek; 1796 an Herzog Albert von Sachsen-Teschen