St. John before God and the Elders

Albrecht Dürer
St. John before God and the Elders
woodcut
c. 1496

An original Albrecht Dürer woodcut print.

c. 1496

Original woodcut printed in black ink on laid paper without watermark.

Signed in the block with the artist’s monogram lower center.

A superb 16th century/lifetime impression, from the Latin Edition of 1511 with the Latin letterpress text on the verso, showing the small gap in the lower borderline just to the left of the monogram characteristic of this edition. One of fifteen woodcuts created by Dürer to illustrate the last book of the New Testament, the Revelations of Saint John the Divine, the Apocalypse.

Catalog: Bartsch 63; Kurth 108; Meder 166; Panofsky 283; Hollstein 166; Strauss 43, Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 114.

15 1/4 x 11 1/8 inches

Sheet Size: 16 1/4 x 11 1/4 inches

Revelation 4: (1) After this I looked, and behold, a door opened in the sky, and the firs voice I heard, as if a trumpet talking to me, said: come up here and I will show you things which must happen hereafter. (2) And immediately I was possessed by the Spirit, and behold, a throne was set in heaven and the one was sitting on the throne. (3) And he who sat upon it was like stone of jasper and cornelian, and there was a rainbow around the throne, looking like an emerald. (4) And round about the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones were twenty-four elders seated, clothed in white with crowns of gold upon their heads. (5) and from the throne issued flashes of lightening and thunder, and voices, and seven lamps of fire burned before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. (6) And before the throne was a sea of glass, like crystal; and in te presence of the throne, and round about the throne were four living beasts, teeming with eyes both before and behind. (7) And the first of the living beasts was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face like a man’s, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. (8) And the four living beasts had each six wings, and round about and within they were full of eyes; and they take no rest, day of night, from saying: holy, holy, holy, Lord, God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. (9) And when the four living beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever (10) the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast down their thrones before the throne . . . Revelation 5: (1) And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book-scroll, written within and on its back sealed with seven seals. (2) And I saw a strong angel, proclaiming with a loud voice: who is worthy to open the book and loosen its seals? (4) And I wept much because no man was found worthy to read and open the book and look at it. (5) And one of the elders said to me: weep no more. See, the lion from the tribe of Judah, the scion of David, has prevailed to open the book and the seven seals which are on it. (6) And I saw in the space between the throne and the four living beasts and the elders stood a lamb, as if slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God and which are sent about to all earth. (7) And he came and took te book out of the right hand of Him who sat upon the throne. (8) And when he had taken the book, the four living beasts and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

The scene is set within a chamber whose doors have swung open. God is seated on a throne, not the rainbow used in earlier representations. A rainbow, sparkling gem-like surrounds it; Dürer has rendered its iridescence with uneven parallel lines. The rendering of the Strong Angel and the positioning of the flaming torches, in gradually increasing size, are examples of Dürer’s inventiveness. Dürer renders many of the passages of the text in minute detail, as the seven seals of the book, the seven horns and the seven eyes of the lamb, and the many eyes covering the “living beasts.”