- Museum number
- Series: Apocalypse
St Michael fighting the Dragon; assisted by three angels, with below a peaceful contemporary landscape, and German letterpress text on the verso. One impression from the 1498 German edition of a series of 15 woodcuts. c.1497-8
- Production date
Height: 395 millimetres
Width: 286 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Entry from Dürer and his Legacy, BM exh.cat. 2002, no. 57:
'Dürer's series of fifteen woodcuts of the Apocalypse, or the Revelations of John the Divine, is remarkable for being the first book in Western art to be both published and illustrated by a major artist. Dürer's imprint, where he describes himself as a painter, is to be found on the last page of text, opposite the Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit. This is a rare example of the first, and only edition with German text. The typeface and translation from the bible used here belonged to his godfather, Anton Koberger, who printed the book. A Latin edition was also produced in 1498 and again in 1511, when it was issued with a new frontispiece, in a combined edition with the Life of the Virgin and the Large Passion. As with his other series of religious prints, Dürer foresaw some demand for loose impressions without text, and issued a sizeable number of them in this way which further increased circulation.
Dürer's choice of the Apocalypse theme for the first of his series of religious prints, published just three years after he opened his workshop, must have been determined as much by the approaching half-millennium as by the traditional representation of the subject in fifteenth-century bibles and block-books. He borrowed ideas and certain motifs from a bible printed by Koberger, in 1483 (see BM Apocalypse, 4) in which small-scale illustrations were incorporated with the text. In aesthetic terms, however, Dürer's full-page woodcuts, were far superior in both design and technique to any fifteenth century publication; they were rather the true successors of the superb early medieval manuscripts of Apocalypse scenes. They also made a sensational impact on the history of printmaking.
St Michael fighting the Dragon is the eleventh in the series of fifteen woodcuts. The design reflects elements of Schongauer's engravings of St Michael fighting the Dragon and the Temptation of St Anthony ( Hollstein 63; 54), but its focus on a struggling figure of St Michael set above a peaceful landscape is unrelated to earlier Apocalypse iconography; nor was it taken up by Lucas Cranach and his followers in their illustrations for the numerous editions of Martin Luther's Reformation bible. It did, however, become a central image of the triumph of Christianity over evil, and was commonly treated as a subject in its own right as part of Counter-Reformation imagery (se BM Apocalypse, nos. 27ff, 103,109).'
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Die heimliche Offenbaru[n]g ioh[an]nis
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For a fuller description of the provenance of this set, see 1895,0122.543
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number