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Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

 

Dürer is justifiably regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist.

 

During his lifetime, he produced an extensive body of work that included altarpieces and other religious works, many portraits and self-portraits, copper engraving and woodcuts.

Stylistically, Dürer produced revolutionary work – particularly following his first journey to Italy – that provided some of the highlights of late German Gothic art before becoming

masterful examples of techniques traditionally associated with Italian Renaissance Masters.

 

His work for the series known as The Apocalypse shows some of the final examples of his work that retain a strong Gothic influence and illustrate the Revelations of St John to

stunning effect.

 

We have chosen to highlight Dürer's artwork from Apocalipsis cum Figuris in its entirety due to the suite's artistic significance.

 

Should you wish to purchase Fine Art Posters or Greeting Cards showing the artwork of Albrecht Dürer, we are aware that these are available through Spirit of the Ages.

 

 

Apocalipsis cum Figuris

 

"The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist"

 

Albrecht Durer - 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Dürer's The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist depicts

the attempted martyrdom of the Saint following the

orders of Emperor Domition and appears as the first

illustration for Apocalipsis cum Figuris (Apocalypse)

despite the fact that the Book of Revelation contains no

account of the episode.

 

Panofsky (The life and art of Albrecht Durer: Princeton

University Press; 1945) notes a point of interest for this

illustration being that the block appears to have been

among the final two prepared by Dürer for this suite.

Albrecht Durer - detail of 'St John' in 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St John

Albrecht Durer - detail of 'Emperor Domitian' in 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Emperor Domitian

Albrecht Durer - detail of background tapestry in 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Detail of background tapestry

 

 

 

"St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Horton ("The Ecstatics Vision of History in a Dürer

Woodcut", in Harper's Magazine: 11 February 2008)

makes the following comment of Dürer's extraordinary

illustration:

 

The realization of the vision is a near perfect

replication of recorded words of John, but beyond

that it is filled with valuable keys to use to unlock

his broader and deeper meaning in the history of

ideas. And Dürer's plain objective is the

accomplishment of an inner harmony between the

doctrine and theology of the church and his vision

and understandings of classical antiquity. He

presents an apocalyptic vision as an ultimate act

of harmony and reconciliation. It is a rare and

powerful vision.

Albrecht Durer - Detail of 'Christ' in 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Christ

Albrecht Durer - Detail of 'St John' in 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St John

Albrecht Durer - Detail of 'The Seven Stars' in 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Seven Stars

 

 

 

"St John and the Twenty-four Elders of Heaven"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'St John and the Twenty-four Elders of Heaven' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Mrs Charles W Heaton (The History of the Life of

Albrecht Durer of Nurnberg with a Translation of His

Letters and Journal and Some Accounts of His Work:

Seeley, Jackson and Halliday, London; 1881), in an early

comprehensive biographical work, provides the

following description of this wonderful illustration:

 

St John surveys this marvellous scene through the

open door of heaven. He is already in the clouds, or

rather above them, for they float beneath him and

separate him from the earth, which lies in peaceful,

unconscious beauty beneath the stage of the

heavenly drama. One of the elders appears to be

instructing him in the meaning of the mysteries he

beholds. Above the head of the Father are

suspended, in a half-circle, the seven lamps of fire,

'which are the seven spirits of God,' and on His

knees lies the Book with seven seals; the Lamb,

who alone is worthy to open the seals thereof,

standing upon it.

 
Albrecht Durer - Detail of 'The One on the Throne' in 'St John and the Twenty-four Elders of Heaven' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The One on the Throne

Albrecht Durer - Detail of 'St John' in 'St John and the Twenty-four Elders of Heaven' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St John

Albrecht Durer - Details showing the Temporal World in 'St John and the Twenty-four Elders of Heaven' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Temporal World

 

 

 

"The Four Riders of the Apocalypse"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Four Riders of the Apocalypse' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

This is one of Dürer's most powerful creations. What

can resist the superhuman might of these terrible

riders to whom power is given to execute righteous

vengeance on the earth? The horses they ride are of

no earthly breed, but go forth like their riders,

conquering and to conquer in their God-given

strength.

 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'War' and 'Conquest' in 'The Four Riders of the Apocalypse' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris'' Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'Famine' in 'The Four Riders of the Apocalypse' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris'' Albrecht Durer - Detail depicting 'Death' in 'The Four Riders of the Apocalypse' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''  
The Four Riders of the Apocalypse (from left to right): War; Conquest; Famine; and Death  

 

 

"Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

The souls of them that were slain for the word of

God, and for the testimony which they held, lie

beneath the altar, helpless and naked, until they

are clothed in the white robes of imputed

righteousness by the angels of God. Such is the

scene in the region of heaven, depicted in the upper

portion of the picture; but on the earth, which

occupies the lower part, a far different scene is

taking place, for punishment has already overtaken

the sinful race of man, and they find no place to flee

from the wrath of the Lamb, though they call upon

mountains and rocks to hide them from the face of

Him that sitteth on the throne.

 
The sun and the moon, two faces of sorrowful aspect,

are set in the middle space between heaven and

earth; and from the same region the stars fall down

flaming and hissing, a mighty rain of heavenly

bodies.

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting Angels clothing the Righteous in 'Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Angels clothing the Righteous

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting the Sun in 'Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Sun

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting all classes of human overtaken by calamity in 'Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

 

All classes of human overtaken

by calamity

 

 

 

"Four  Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

It represents, firstly, the four angels standing on the

four corners of the earth holding the four winds; and

secondly, the sealing of the elect on their forehead. The

four angels are of majestic and powerful form, as

indeed are the angels generally in these cuts. Dürer

perhaps felt that the graceful and vapoury beings that

are often drawn to represent the angelic inhabitants of

heaven were not capable of the hard work accorded to

them by St John. The angel to the left seems beating

back the wind with a sword that he holds in one hand,

and a plate or cymbal in the other.

 
The servants of God are marked with a cross on their

forehead, and here Dürer is by no means invidiously

Protestant in his sympathies, for many Catholic clergy

are amongst the elect, and a monk is the one who is

being sealed by the angel in the foreground.

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting an Angel staying the Wind in 'Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

An Angel staying the Wind

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Winds' in 'Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Winds

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting an Angel sealing the Chosen in 'Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

An Angel sealing the Chosen

 

 

 

"The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

The elect with palm branches in their hands, and

clothed in white robes, behold the Lamb standing

on a rainbow in a glory. The glorified host of saints,

with the palm branches, reminds one somewhat of

Fra Angelico's similar representations, but Dürer's

saints have much more individuality of character,

much more muscle, if I may call it so, than Angelico's

lovely and holy, but impersonal forms.

St John on the earth, which is separated from heaven

by a veil of fleecy clouds, beholds this vision as he

kneels on a high promontory stretching out into the

sea. A distant landscape of the quiet beauty that Dürer

loved to depict, gives a tender, dreamy expression even

to the lower half of the woodcut. 

 

 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Lamb of God' in 'The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Lamb of God

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Chosen' in 'The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Chosen

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'St John in prayer' in 'The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St John in prayer

 

 

 

"The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Seven Trumpets are Given to the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

In Dürer's representation of this vision, God the

Father sits on a throne at the top of the cut, dealing

out the trumpets to the angels, who have received

all but two, which He is in the act of handing to the

two angels nearest the throne. The angel with the

censer, containing the prayers of the saints, stands

at the altar immediately in front of the Father. The

two principal angels, with their long trumpets at

their mouths, occupy the central space of the picture,

together with the darkened visages of sun and moon.

The landscape on earth is partly river or sea, and

partly shore. Two great cities doomed to destruction

lie on either side of the broad water, in which

numerous vessels of all descriptions are suffering

shipwreck. An eagle flying over the earth utters the

cry of ' Woe, woe, woe to the inhabiters of the earth

by reason of the other  voices of the trumpets of the

three angels which are yet to sound!'

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting God handing trumpets to the Angels in 'The Seven Trumpets are Given to the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

God handing Trumpets to the Angels

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting an Angel sounding a Trumpet'The Seven Trumpets are Given to the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

An Angel sounding a Trumpet

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting the Shooting Star 'Wormwood' in 'The Seven Trumpets are Given to the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

A Shooting Star

 

 

 

"The Battle of the Angels"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Battle of the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

This is one of the most celebrated compositions of

the series. The four angels, armed with great swords,

hew down in ferocious vengeance all ranks of men

alike. An emperor and a pope, as in the former

illustration, are amongst the number of the slain,

and the beggar's rags protect him no better than the

emperor's purple. 'The angels in this cut,' Von Eye

remarks, 'appear more like furies from out a Greek

tragedy than members of  that holy company of

spirits with which our imagination peoples heaven.

But yet even in this respect the artist keeps strictly to

the idea of the Evangelist, whose angels are truly

destroying angels, driven on by their very nature

towards murder.'

 

 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting God in 'The Battle of the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

God

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting a destructive Angel in 'The Battle of the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

A destructive Angel

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting two destructive Angels in 'The Battle of the Angels' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Two destructive Angels

 

 

 

"St John Devours the Book"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'St John Devours the Book' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

Dürer's extraordinary and powerful rendering of

this angel must be seen in order to be conceived. It

is impossible to describe so strange a form. At first

sight, this woodcut strikes us as being grotesque and

ludicrous, and one can hardly help laughing at the

poor Evangelist who kneels on a promontory, and

has the extreme right-hand corner of the big book

that is presented to him by the angel already in his

mouth, and is apparently in great danger of

choking with it. This, I say, is the first idea on

beholding this illustration, but after a time the

solemn earnestness of the artist, and the grandeur

of his conception of that mighty angel whose voice

'was as the voice of seven thunders,' takes hold of the

imagination, and one becomes haunted by that

mysterious cloud-body, and that awful face breaking

forth from the sun.

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Angel whose face was like the Sun' in 'St John Devours the Book' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Angel whose face was like the Sun

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting St John devouring the Book in 'St John Devours the Book' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St John devouring the Book

   

 

 

"The Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

The woman stands, as St John describes, with the

moon (a crescent moon) under her feet, with the

sun, in the form of a glory around her, and with

a crown of twelve stars upon her head, much in

the same way as the Virgin Mary, as Queen of

Heaven, is depicted by Catholic art. Yet Diirer,

obvious as the inference appears, does not seem

to have intended this woman for the Virgin, for

he has added to her form a pair of powerful wings,

which he would hardly have done had he meant

her to represent the earthly mother of our Lord.

She has already been delivered of the child, who is

borne up by two angels towards the Father, a

half-figure in the clouds. The great red dragon,

having seven heads and ten horns, and seven

crowns upon his heads, rages and foams before

her, his tail reaching up to the heaven and drawing

down the third part of the stars.

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Woman Clothed with the Sun' in 'The Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Woman Clothed with the Sun

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Seven-headed Dragon' in 'The Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Seven-headed Dragon

   

 

 

"St Michael Fighting the Dragon"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'St Michael Fighting the Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

Dürer has adopted quite a different mode of

treatment of this subject from that usually

employed in the older representations of the

archangel Michael, or his earthly representative

St George. St Michael, a powerful and superhuman

figure, is accompanied by his angels, all of whom

are taking part in the fierce combat that is going

on. Again in this picture a lovely landscape is seen

on the earth, forming a strong contrast in its sweet

repose to the war that is taking place in the sky.

 

 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'St Michael' in 'St Michael Fighting the Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

St Michael

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Dragon' in 'St Michael Fighting the Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Dragon

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting two Angels assisting St Michael in combat in 'St Michael Fighting the Dragon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

 

Two Angels assisting

St Michael in combat

 

 

 

"The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

A dragon of similar form to the one in 'The Woman

clothed with the Sun' receives the worship of the

world. Two groups of men of various conditions,

foremost amongst whom we again recognise an

emperor and empress, prostrate themselves before

him, whilst he stretches his long necks above their

heads in secure satisfaction, for 'his deadly wound

was healed.' To the left is seen the beast with the

ram's horns, in form like a lion, at either side of

which fire descends from heaven like thick rain.

Above, on the throne, in the clear space of heaven

we see the form of Him who is 'like unto the Son of

Man,' having the sharp sickle in His hand, 'for the

harvest of the earth is ripe.' The angel, indeed, of the

harvest is already descending to gather the vine of

the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of

the wrath of God.

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Sea Monster' in 'The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Sea Monster

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Beast with the Lamb's Horns' in 'The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Beast with the Lamb's horns

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting heretical worship of the 'Dragon' in 'The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heretical worship of the Dragon

 

 

 

"The Whore of Babylon"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Whore of Babylon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

The woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, 'having

a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations,' sits

on the back of the seven-headed dragon, holding

out her golden cup, and 'drunken with the blood

of the saints.' She is elaborately dressed in the

German costume of the fifteenth century, only

exaggerated in its ornamentation. Weeds spring

up in the path before her, and she leaves fire

behind her. The dragon is of the usual form, but

somehow his seven heads are too grotesque to be

terrible. There is not, indeed, the same amount of

force in the conception of this design as in most of

the other cuts. The Babylonish woman does not

strike one as being sufficiently powerful or

beautiful to compel the homage of those who are

worshipping her. These stand to the left, a careless

group; only one among them, a monk, seems aware

of the coming destruction.

Albrecht Durer - detailing depicting the 'Whore of Babylon' in 'The Whore of Babylon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting descending Angels in 'The Whore of Babylon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting Babylon in flames in 'The Whore of Babylon' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

 

The Whore of Babylon

The decending Angels

Babylon in flames

 

 

"The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit"

 

       
Albrecht Durer - 'The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Heaton (1881) describes this wonderful illustration

thus:

 

The key of the bottomless pit that the angel holds

in his hands is of enormous size, with a bunch of

little keys (perhaps of the separate cells in hell) tied

through the handle. A beautiful city in the

background represents the Heavenly Jerusalem,

'whose light is the glory of God' and in the

foreground, on a hill above the Angel and the

Dragon, we again have the Seer of all these visions

accompanied by one of the elders, who declares to

him their signification. St John is always represented

by Dürer as a powerful young, or middle-aged man,

and never as the aged Prophet of Patmos.

 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting 'The Angel with the Key' in 'The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

The Angel with the Key 

Albrecht Durer - detail depicting Satan imprisoned in 'The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit' from ''Apocalipsis cum Figuris''

Satan imprisoned 

   
           

 

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