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Updated 5-6-14
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Old Master Prints: Albrecht Dürer (Nuremburg, 1471-1528), The Apocalypse Woodcuts

Dürer: The Apocalypse / Dürer: Large Passion / Dürer: Small Woodcut Passion / Dürer: Engraved Passion / Dürer: Other Passion
Dürer: Life of the Virgin / Dürer: Holy Family / Dürer: Saints and Martyrs / Dürer: Other Images
Ship of Fools 1 / Ship of Fools 2 / Ship of Fools 3 / Ship of Fools 4 / Copies After Durer

German Drawings: Hans Sebald Beham / Virgil Solis / Hans von Aachen / Johann Heinrich Roos

German 16th century printmakers: Heinrich Aldegrever, Jost Amman, Hans Sebald Beham, Hans Brosamer, Hans Burgkmair,
Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Durer, Albrecht Durer (After), Augstin Hirschvogel, Hans Holbein (After), Hopfer Family,
Monogrammist IS with the Shovel, Georg Pencz, Hans Schäufelein, Virgil Solis, Monogrammist W.S. (Wolfgang Stuber?).
Walter L. Strauss, Albrecht Dürer: Woodcuts and Woodblocks (NY: Abaris Books, 1979), notes that "Durer's Apocalypse was the first book conceived, illustrated, and published by an artist. Although the font used for the text is that found in Koberger's publications, on the last page of The Apocalypse appears this notice: 'Printed at Nuremberg by Albrecht Dürer, painter, after Christ's birth the year 1498.' The illustrations are clearly intended to take precedence over the text, which is printed on the backs of the illustrations without interuptions and without regard to the subjects it faces." (p. 153). The woodcuts were executed between 1496 and 1498, with the exception of the woodcut on the titlepage, which does not appear until the 1511 edition. They were not, however, executed in the order in which they appear in the biblical text. For instance, the second woodcut in the 1498 edition, St. John's Vision of the Seven Candlesticks, was proably the last one finished (Strauss's judgment) or one of the last (the consensus of other critics). Erwin Panofsky's discussion of Dürer's Apocalypse in his magisterial study, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (Princeton University Press, 1943, rev, 1945, 1948, and 1955; page references to all editions are identical) still remains the starting point for thinking about the Apocalypse woodcuts: "A vision is a supernatural event, or rather a sequence of events, experienced by a person 'being in the Spirit' or, as one would say today, in a trance. Its content is thus both miraculous and imaginary. It is miraculous in so far as the laws of ordinary physical life are temporarily suspended; it is imaginary in so far as this suspension is not supposed to take place in actuality as is the case, for instance, of the miracles accepted by the Church, but only within the consciousness of the visionary. To 'realize' a vision in a work of art–that is, to make it convincing without the aid of conventional signs or inscriptions–the artist has to fulfill two seemingly contradictory requirements. On the one hand, he must be an accomplished master of 'naturalism,' for only when we behold a world evidently controlled by what is known as the laws of nature can we become aware of that temporary suspension of these laws which is the essence of a 'miracle'; on the other hand, he must be capable of transplanting the miraculous event from the level of factuality to that of an imaginary experience' (55-56)." Since Panofsky illustrates this point with a discussion of St John's Vision of the Seven Candlesticks, see below. We have presented the woodcuts in the order in which they appear in the 1511 edition of Dürer's Apocalypse.
Apocaliptis cum figuris / The Apocalypse with illustrations (Bartsch 60, Strauss 158, Meder 163). Original woodcut, 1511, for the 1511 Latin edition of The Apocalypse, the first to contain this woodcut of St. John's Mystical Vision of the Virgin and Child. Instead of St. Luke portraying the Virgin and Child in a painting or a drawing, Dürer portrays St. John, pen in hand, making a picture in words. As Strauss observes, the "fringe of clouds places the entire scene in the realm of the supernatural–distilled by the artist from the legend, because it is not accounted for in the text" (p. 456). By doing so, Dürer offers his book containing the complete text of the Apocalypse from the Bible and his own woodcuts illustrating that text as a collaboration between the Evangelist and himself. This impression of the titlepage is trimmed just into the text on the verso and the top corners have beeen rounded, but the image itself is complete, sharp, contrasty, and fresh. One of Dürer's masterpieces, here in a superb impression as it first appeared in the 1511 edition of Dürer's Apocalypse. Image size: 361x228mm. Price: $18,500.

For the detail of the central image, see below.
St John's Vision of the Seven Candlesticks (Bartsch 62, Strauss 55, Meder 165). Original woodcut, c. 1498 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelations 4 to 5: 1-8. Ours is a very good impression from the 1511 Latin text edition (which was sometimes better printed than the 1498 Latin or German editions) with the "Crowned Tower" or "Tower with Crown" watermark (Briquet 15.863, c. 1475; M. 259). A very good strong impression of this important early work. The two worlds of the woodcut—the earthly landscape and the heavenly scene revealed to the eyes of the Saint and the artist—exist on entirely different planes, and the heavenly one is by far the more striking. Perhaps the foundation for Durer's success in this series, as Strauss notes (p. 154), is that "he succeeded in a new and phenomenal way in creating a feeling of the Mysterium, an awe-filled awareness of the limitations of man's understanding." One of Durer's most desirable images. 392x277mm. Price: $30,000.
Panofsky's comments continue directly from the passage quoted above: "To illustrate this almost paradoxical contrast between a 'naturalistic' rendering of visible things and a non-naturalistic mode of presentation, let us consider one specific case: the Vision of the Seven Candlesticks. In general arrangement it remains particularly faithful to the woodcuts in the Quentell-Koberger and Grüninger Bibles, but it is infintely more advanced in the rendering of spatial depth and realistic detail. The enormous candlesticks—enormous because they must catch the visionary's eye before he sees the Son of Man—are diversified; each of them is an individual masterpiece of goldsmith's work, and the flames of the candles flicker in a supernatural breeze; they are shown in perspective instead of geometrical elevation, and they are arranged behind instead of above one another. They are placed on realistic cumuli, and these seem to carry, not only the candlesticks but also the figure of the visionary. In the earlier print he had been kneeling before an apparition which appears to him within a conventionalizes madorla–in Dürer's woodcut he is included in his own vision. However, just these innovations fill the beholder with a sense of fantastic unreality. The same clouds which serve as a kind of platform for the candlesticks and the figure of St. John develop into what resembles vertical columns of smoke, weightless and unrestrained by the rules of perspective. The three-dimensionality of speace is stressed and denied at the same time (with the strict symmetry of the whole composition and the abstract transparency of the woodcut lines lending support to a non-naturalistic interpretation), and the very fact that the Evangelist—a mortal like ourselves—appears to be transported bodily into a supernatural realm invites us to share, and not merely to witness, his visionary experience" (Panofsky, pp. 56-57).
St John before God and the Elders (Bartsch 63, Strauss 43, Meder 166). Original woodcut, c. 1496 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelations 4 to 5: 1-8. Ours is a good impression from the 1511 Latin text edition (which was sometimes better printed than the 1498 Latin or German editions) with the High Tower watermark (Briquet 15.863, c. 1475). Several expertly repaired tears visible only from the verso. Faint stains on the left door that has just swung open to reveal the Divine Presence. The two worlds of the woodcut—the earthly landscape and the heavenly scene revealed to the eyes of the Saint and the artist—exist on entirely different planes, and the heavenly one is by far the more striking. A good strong impression of this important early work, one of Durer's most desirable images. 392x277mm. Price: SOLD.
The four angles staying the winds (Bartsch 66, Strauss 52, Meder 169). Original woodcut, c. 1498 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelation 7: 1-4: "After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, 'Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.' And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel" (Rev. 7: 1-4). Ours is a very good impression from the 1511 Latin text edition (which, at least in this case, was better printed than the 1498 Latin or German editions) with the "Crowned Tower" or "Tower with Crown" watermark (Briquet 15.863, c. 1475; M. 259). A very good strong impression of this important early work. One of Durer's most desirable images. 395x282mm. Price: $35,000.
Panofsky's comments continue directly from the passage quoted above: "The behavior of the Four Angels holding the Winds is diversified so as to create a rhythmical crescendo, while correspondant to the character of their antagonists. Gentle Zephyr can be quieted by a beautifully statuesque angel who raises his left had with a gesture of mild persuasion and carries his sword like an attribute rather than a weapon; the neighbor of this angel, confronting 'Auster,' makes a more emphatic gesture with his right arm and lifts his sword with a firm and somewhat menacing grasp; the angel at the upper right addresses Eurus with his arms outstretched, his left emphatically raised and his sword almost ready for use; and 'Boreas,' the wildest of the winds, can be tamed only by actual battle. (Panofsky, p. 57).

Strauss notes that Dürer has taken liberties with the text and introduced details of his own: the angels wield swords; the angel ascending from the east has been given the cross to carry across the sky; another angel is pictured as he marks with seals the servants of God; and the four angels are not placed at the corners of the earth but compounded into a powerful pramid. Clearly, the prominent apple tree, the Tree of Life, remains untouched by the winds–as called for by the text–but the winds themsleves seem to have defied the artist to depict them in a state of inaction, i.e. without symbolic rays issuing from their mouths. Still, the two upper heads do direct their breezes away from the earth. Only the one at the lower left is receiving a warning from the angel nearest, who is poised to strike with his sword. . . . The chalice held by the 'sealing' angel presumably signifies the Eucharist" (p. 192).
St John devouring the Book (Bartsch 70, Strauss 53, Meder 172). Original woodcut, c. 1497-98 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelations 10 (see below). Original woodcut from the 1498 German edition of The Apocalypse, which Meder describes (Strauss, p. 155) as "Carefully printed and very rare." He also calls it (Strauss, p. 196) "clear and bright; brilliant; rarely with full borders; frequently with three breaks in the right portion of the lower border; gaps in the left border below the small angel; also opposite on the right border." Our impression is before the breaks lower right and with only one small break in the left border below the small angel. We also have full borders top, bottom, and left; the right edge seems to have been slightly trimmed, but there is still some border visible. Repaired tear upper center to the right of the border, small restored upper and lower right corners. The German text verso exactly matches the reproduction illustrated in the 1964 facsimile of the 1498 German text of the Apocalypse (although our impression is better than the one illustrated in the work). Strauss comments, "If a mystery can be made plausible, then Dürer has succeeded . . . in doing just that. He renders the incredible credible, retains the mysterious, and yet invites the viewers to interpret and understand what is happening. As a means to this end, he has invented a new graphic language" (p. 195). Image size: 390x280mm. Price: $40,000.
Revelation 10: 1-10: "And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He held a little scroll open in his hand. Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, he gave a great shout, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will be no more delay, but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, as he announced to his servants, the prophets.” Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter." Durer omits the seven thunders, but uses most of the rest of the passage.
The Beast with Two Horns like a Lamb (Bartsch 74, Strauss 46, Meder 175). Original woodcut, c. 1496-97 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelation 13-14 (see below). Original woodcut from the 1511 Latin edition of The Apocalypse. A very good well-inked impression with strong contrasts, and preferable to the 1498 German and Latin editions which Meder describes (Strauss, p. 172) as "brownish, sometmies grey, less distinct" and "not particularly good." Our impression has full borders and margins on all sides. Strauss comments, "If a mystery can be made plausible, then Dürer has succeeded . . . in doing just that. He renders the incredible credible, retains the mysterious, and yet invites the viewers to interpret and understand what is happening. As a means to this end, he has invented a new graphic language" (p. 195). The image draws upon details from Revelations 17-19 (see below). Image size: 392x282mm. Price: $35,000.
Revelation 13: 1-8: "And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. They worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’  The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.
Revelation 13: 11: "Then I saw another beast that rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.
Revelation 14: 14-17: " Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, ‘Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle."
The Adoration of The Lamb (Bartsch 67, Strauss 42, Meder 176). Original woodcut, c. 1496-97 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelation 5, 14, 19, and 7 (see below). Original woodcut from the 1511 Latin edition of The Apocalypse. A very good well-inked impression with strong contrasts, and preferable to the 1498 German and Latin editions which Meder describes (Strauss, p. 164) as "brownish, sometmies grey, less distinct" (German) and "good but uneven" (Latin). Our impression has full borders and margins on all sides. Strauss comments, "The Chosen carry palm branches, as mentioned in 7: 9, not harps, called for in 14: 2). The twenty-four elders—exactly twenty-four are pictured—wear crowns. The four "living beasts" are the bull, the lion, the eagle, and the angel, symbolic of Sts. Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew, respectively. Each is covered with a multitude of eyes. The Lamb is standing on the rainbow, which denotes the Lamb of God. St. John is kneeling in the foreground." (p. 162). We might note that St. John is kneeling on a mountain surrounded below by water—Patmos; everyone else in the foreground is standing on clouds; the Lamb exists in a light-filled space of His own. Image size: 393x282mm. Price: $50,000.
Revelation 5: 6: "Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 14: 1-3: "Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth."
Revelation 19: 4-10: "And from the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great.’ Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."
Revelation 7:9-112: "After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
The Whore of Babylon (Bartsch 73, Strauss 45, Meder 177). Original woodcut, c. 1496-97 for The Apocalypse. The work draws details from Revelation 17-19 (see below). Original woodcut from the 1511 Latin edition of The Apocalypse. A very good well-inked impression with strong contrasts, and preferable to the 1498 German and Latin editions which Meder describes (Strauss, p. 172) as "brownish, sometmies grey, less distinct" and "not particularly good." Our impression has full borders and margins on all sides. Strauss comments, "If a mystery can be made plausible, then Dürer has succeeded . . . in doing just that. He renders the incredible credible, retains the mysterious, and yet invites the viewers to interpret and understand what is happening. As a means to this end, he has invented a new graphic language" (p. 195). The image draws upon details from Revelations 17-19 (see below). Image size: 392x282mm. Price: SOLD.
Revelation 17: 1-16: "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgement of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus."
Revelation 18: 1-3: "I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendour. He called out with a mighty voice, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling-place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury."
Revelation 19: 11-21: " Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders—flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh."

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