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The Four horsemen of the Apocalypse The Apocalypse


Dürer, Albrecht; printmaker; German artist, 1471-1528






on or before 1498




Single-leaf impression before the text.




black carbon ink; medium
laid paper; support


height, image, 392, mm
width, image, 283, mm
height, sheet, 392, mm
width, sheet, 283, mm


bequeathed; 1873; Kerrich, Richard Edward


Collection of Rev. Thomas Kerrich; by descent to Rev. Richard Edward Kerrich


A proof without letterpress text on the reverse, printed after the first few impressions of the original 1498 editions (which had letterpress text of chapters six and seven on the reverse).
After returning from a journey to Italy in 1495, Dürer began preparation of woodcuts to illustrate an edition of the Apocalypse, the revelatory text of St. John the Divine, which foretold the events that would take place on earth on the Second Coming of Christ. The Apocalypse was a frequently used source of inspiration for artists in the fifteenth century, and Dürer's ideas were partially based on earlier illustrated German bibles. The difference was that Dürer's set of fifteen full-sheet woodcuts was incredibly ambitious in conception, on a large scale, beautifully composed and of a quality unmatched by earlier printmakers. It was to form the first book to be independently conceived and published by an artist. It is likely that Dürer himself cut the woodblocks, producing two versions with text in German and Latin in 1498 and issuing impressions of some of the images without text at the same time, such as this example. As the illustrations and text proceed independently of each other, so that the relevant text is never with its depiction, it does not seem inappropriate that Dürer issued so many of these prints separately - the inventive genius of the artist is so apparent in this series that demand for such impressions was surely very high, even in his own lifetime. The scene depicted derives from the sixth chapter of the Revelation, where the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes takes a scroll from Christ and breaks its seven seals. The first four seals unleashed the four horsemen, shown by Dürer from the rider in the background to the foremost. The first was 'Conqueror', with a bow and crown; the second 'War', holding a sword. The third, holding the scales of justice, was 'Famine', though to our eyes, as the most powerful looking horseman we might be tempted to believe that he represents death; in fact, 'Death' is the rider at the front of the composition, on a pale horse, with Hell following close on his heels. This image of the terrifying horsemen who stare directly ahead, trampling all beneath them, is incredibly powerful, with a sense of terrible momentum given to it by the overlapping figures of the horsemen with their cloaks billowing behind, the tumbling figures in the right hand corner and the contrast between the billowing clouds and the emphatic horizontal black lines of the rest of the sky.

Acquisition Credit:

Bequeathed by the Rev. R. E. Kerrich 1872 (received 1873)


monogram; image lower centre; printed; AD
inscription; lower right; graphite; 35
watermark; Large imperial orb; Briquet 3064
; verso; graphite; 64


Bartsch; 64
Illustrated Bartsch; 64
Illustrated Bartsch Commentary; .264 (before text, b)
Meder; 167 (before text, b)
Hollstein (German); 167 1b
Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum; 167 (before text, b)
Briquet; 3064
Meder; 53 (watermark section)


Related Object(s):

P.3301-R; The Apocalypse, Title Page.
P.3302-R; The Apocalypse, Title Page.
P.3303-R; The Torture of St John the Evangelist
P.3304-R; The Vision of the Seven Candlesticks
P.3305-R; St. John before God and the Elders
P.3306-R; The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals
P.3307-R; The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals
P.3308-R; Four Angels Holding the Winds
P.3309-R; Four Angels Holding the Winds
P.3310-R; The Adoration of the Lamb
P.3311-R; The Adoration of the Lamb
P.3312-R; The Seven Angels with the Trumpets
P.3313-R; The Seven Angels with the Trumpets
P.3315-R; The Four Avenging Angels
P.3314-R; The Four Avenging Angels
P.3316-R; St John Devouring the Book
P.23-1983; St John Devouring the Book
P.3317-R; The Apocalyptic Woman
P.3318-R; St. Michael Fighting the Dragon
P.3319-R; The Whore of Babylon
P.3320-R; The Beast with Two Horns like a Lamb
P.3321-R; The Beast with Two Horns like a Lamb
P.3322-R; The Angel showing John the New Jerusalem


Object Number: P.3051-R
(Paintings, Drawings and Prints)
(record id: 81664; input: 2002-11-06; modified: 2018-03-27)