The Four Riders of the Apocalypse

From Apocalipsis cum Figuris (Apocalypse)

Illustrated by Albrecht Dürer



Dürer's The Four Riders of the Apocalypse depicts one element of the ecstatic vision experienced by St John. The words

associated with the illustration follow:


And I saw when the Lamb opened on of the seals; and I heard, as it were the noise of

thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and beheld a white

horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he

went forth conquering, and to conquer. And when he had opened the second seal, I

heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that

was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth,

and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see.

And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in

his hand ... And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth

beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and beheld a pale horse: and his name that

sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them

over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger and with death,

and with the beasts of the earth.


Mrs Charles W Heaton (The History of the Life of Albrecht Durer of Nurnberg with a Translation of His Letters and

Journal and Some Accounts of His Work: Seeley, Jackson and Halliday, London; 1881), in an early comprehensive

biographical work, provides the following description of this wonderful illustration:


This is one of Dürer's most powerful creations. What can resist the superhuman might

of these terrible riders to whom power is given to execute righteous vengeance on the

earth? The horses they ride are of no earthly breed, but go forth like their riders,

conquering and to conquer in their God-given strength.


There is no exaggeration, no display of the artist's own imaginative powers in this grand

rendering of the Vision of St John. Dürer adheres faithfully to the mystic record, and

only gives the aged seer's story an outward form and visible power. But what a form,

and what power! What other artist than Albrecht Dürer could have rendered with such

fierce breathing life that awful figures of Death on the pale horse treading down, in

avenging wrath, the fourth part of the earth? Unlike the other riders, who appear urged

on by some mighty impulse to fulfill God's judgments on mankind, Death seems driven

by fearful demoniac rage. Hell, indeed, follows close behind him in the shape of the

wide-opened jaws of a monster into which a king-crowned head is sinking. Even the

horse he bestrides betrays a feeling of devilish spite that is quite different to the noble

anger of the animal ridden by the rider who swings the balance aloft with powerful

outstretched arm. He, the third mighty rider, is, it is true, less calm in his bearing than

the other two, but it is because he desires to be swift to execute the sentence that has

gone out against a wicked and perverse generation, and not because he feels any

fiendish exultation at human misery, like the horrible skeleton beneath him. The rider

with the bow, and the rider with the sword likewise, have no thought but the

accomplishment of their terrible mission.


The execution of this cut is bold and powerful in the extreme. Every stroke tells; yet

there is not nearly the amount of mechanical work in it that there is in most of Dürer's

later woodcuts. The effect, grand as it is, is produced by simple elements. There are

only eleven figures in this cut altogether, and of these six are condemned human beings,

who are trampled under the horse of Death. Dürer deals here with grander masses and

less complicated material that in most of the other cuts of this series, and the effect he

produces is more striking that in the more elaborate compositions.




Our Greeting Cards and Reproduction Prints


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In the meantime, enjoy perusing this glorious illustration by Albrecht Dürer.



The illustration



Single Greeting Card (with matching Envelope)

Price: US$5.00


Reproduction on 8x12" sheet

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Price: US$30.00


  Reproduction on 12x18" sheet

Code: AD FRA (12x18)
Price: US$60.00




Some details from the illustration


An Angel of the Lord The first two Riders The third Rider Death