Height: 394.000 mm
Width: 281.000 mm
Gift of William Mitchell
PD 1895-1-22-576 (Bartsch 64)
Prints and Drawings
Albrecht Dürer The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a woodcut
Germany, AD 1498
The New Testament vision
When the 27-year-old Dürer published the text of the Book of Revelation with 15 woodcut illustrations, he realized a three-fold ambition. He secured for himself a new source of income, transformed the appearance of the illustrated printed book, and found an outlet for his religious imagination. The Four Horsemen demonstrates how complete was his success.
Dürer has compressed eight verses describing St John's visions (Revelation 6:1-8) into one scene. The first rider with a bow represents pestilence. The second, with a raised sword, represents war. The third, with the empty scales, represents famine. In front rides Death, sweeping citizens and a king into the jaws of Hades.
The descriptive power of Dürer's new woodcut style is evident. He has created light and dark tone with parallel and cross-hatched lines, and introduced luxuriant textures into the clothes, the manes of the horses, and the billowing clouds.
Since he was publishing the book himself, Dürer had to pay skilled block cutters to cut around his drawn lines. This was slow, dificult work and therefore expensive. However when the task was complete, the blocks provided him with an income for the rest of his life.
E. Panofsky, The life and art of Albrecht D (Princeton University Press, 1945, 1971)
G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints, 149, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)