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Albrecht Durer's Woodcuts for "The Apocalypse" (1498)

Here we show the self-portrait produced by Albrecht Durer at the age of 28 (two years following publication of "The Apocalypse").

Here we show the self-portrait produced by Albrecht Durer at the age of 28 (two years following publication of "The Apocalypse").

Albrecht Dürer's suite of Woodcuts known as "The Apocalypse"

Albrecht Dürer's suite - which is widely known, in the modern English-speaking world, as The Apocalypse - was originally published under the Latin title of Apocalipsis cum Figures (or, "The Apocalypse with Pictures") in 1498. For the First Edition published in 1498, the suite (composed of 15 Woodcuts) was published in Latin and German. At that time that suite was published, Dürer was aged just 26.

Dürer's designs for The Apocalypse depicted scenes from the Biblical book of "Revelation" - an account of florid revelations attributed to St John the Evangelist - in a manner that was entirely complementary to the associated text and as such, they are widely regarded as among Dürer's most creative and inspiring Woodcuts.

The publication of the Woodcuts within The Apocalypse had a profound effect on Dürer's career, for it was with this suite that his reputation as a Master of the Renaissance was made throughout Germany and the wider Latin-speaking world.

That his reputation was established thus, with reference to a series of Woodcuts, is particularly profound. Until that time, Woodcuts had been considered only partial pieces of art, requiring completion with hand-coloring to be considered truly worthy. Dürer's approach to the Woodcuts for The Apocalypse, which included the integration of close cross-hatching to produce contrast shades of light and dark, was so revolutionary that they were able to transcend the then-dominant paradigm applied to Woodcuts and be considered Masterworks in their own right.

Here we show each of the 15 designs in Albrecht Durer's suite known as "The Apocalypse".

Here we show each of the 15 designs in Albrecht Durer's suite known as "The Apocalypse".

The 15 Woodcuts by Dürer included in The Apocalypse are known as:

  • "The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist";
  • "St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks";
  • "St John and the Twenty-four Elders in Heaven";
  • "The Four Riders of the Apocalypse";
  • "Opening the Fifth and Sixth Seals";
  • "Four Angels Staying the Winds and Signing the Chosen";
  • "The Adoration of the Lamb and the Hymn of the Chosen";
  • "The Seven Trumpets are Given to the Angels";
  • "The Battle of the Angels";
  • "St John Devours the Book";
  • "The Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon";
  • "St Michael Fighting the Dragon";
  • "The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horn";
  • "The Whore of Babylon"; and
  • "The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit".

While we have provided links for various products available through Amazon throughout this Hub, you may also like to consider the wider range available at the Albrecht Durer Collection shown at the 'Spirit of the Ages' Museum.

"The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist" by Albrecht Durer

Here we show a portion of 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' - the first Woodcut from the suite by Albrecht Durer known as "The Apocalypse".

Here we show a portion of 'The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist' - the first Woodcut from the suite by Albrecht Durer known as "The Apocalypse".

The first of the suite of Woodcuts for The Apocalypse, "The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist", is a curiosity in itself, for it depicts a scene that is not described in the Biblical book of "Revelation" - the attempted martyrdom of the Saint following the orders of Emperor Domition - and interestingly, it is understood to be one of the last Woodcuts prepared by Dürer for this seminal publication.

Dürer depicts St John in this Woodcut seated naked in a cauldron being stoked by flames and having oil poured over his by an executioner - all this occurs immediately before the Emperor Domition and before an assembled crowd. Tellingly, the attire of Emperor Domition is in the Turkish style while that of the crowd is more reminiscent of then-contemporary German clothing. Furnishings are also shown, including a decorated tapestry immediately behind the Emperor Domition and the architectural surroundings are characteristic of Western Medieval structures.

Here we show another portion of "The Martyrdom of St John" by Albrecht Durer. In this this image, we see the Emperor Domition and members of his Court (to the middle and left) and some medieval Gothic architectural features (in the background).

Here we show another portion of "The Martyrdom of St John" by Albrecht Durer. In this this image, we see the Emperor Domition and members of his Court (to the middle and left) and some medieval Gothic architectural features (in the background).

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

Here we show a portion of 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlestickst' - the second Woodcut from the suite by Albrecht Durer known as "The Apocalypse".

Here we show a portion of 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlestickst' - the second Woodcut from the suite by Albrecht Durer known as "The Apocalypse".

The second of the suite of Woodcuts for The Apocalypse, 'St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks' is associated with the text of Chapter 1 of the book of "Revelation" - that dealing with 'The First Vision'.

Features of 'The First Vision' from the book of "Revelation" include: Christ addressing St John directly (commanding St John to record his vision and send it to the churches in the East of the Roman Empire ["Asia"]); the appearance of Christ in the midst of seven candlesticks; specific references to Christ's appearance (wearing a full length garment with a golden girdle), such as his hair (white like snow-white wool), his eyes (like a flame of fire) and his feet (like fine brass burning in a furnace); seven stars being stationed at Christ's right hand; a two-edged sword emanating from Christ's mouth; and Christ's countenance appearing as strong as the Sun.

Dürer has presented a pictorial version of the relevant text from "Revelation" in enigmatic form while remaining close to the text. While there is no overt depiction of Christ's feet, St John is shown in reverence to Christ (rather than falling "at his feet as dead" and the instruction to St John to record his visions is shown metaphorically by a book that is placed in Christ's left hand, the Woodcut by Dürer retains all the other features of the recorded Vision (save, of course, the inclusion of golden color to Christ's girdle).

Here we show another portion of "St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks" by Albrecht Durer - this this image, we see St John kneeling in veneration before Christ.

Here we show another portion of "St John's Vision of Christ and the Seven Candlesticks" by Albrecht Durer - this this image, we see St John kneeling in veneration before Christ.

"St John and the Twenty-four Elders in Heaven" by Albrecht Durer