The days before the Reformation were saturated in turmoil. The turbulence of the late 15th century in Europe caused many to long for the Second Coming of Christ when righteousness would finally prevail. Albrecht Dürer’s timing could not have been better. Empowered by the new invention of the printing press, Dürer produced an art book focused on the text of Revelation.
As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:
These fifteen striking images rendered the symbolic and the spiritual images of this sometimes rather difficult biblical text with a naturalistic precision and an abundance of fascinating detail. Dürer took the complex imagery of Revelation and made it real, in the process creating mental pictures that still influence contemporary readers of the final book of the New Testament.
One of the most enduring of these images is that of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a nightmare vision of the awful terrors to be faced at the end of time, as predicted in Revelation 6. Dürer shows us Pestilence on a white horse with bow and arrow, War on a red horse with sword in hand, Famine on a black horse carrying empty scales, and Death as a skeletal form riding a pale horse and brandishing a scythe. Humankind is being trampled in their wake as they come sweeping into the scene from out of the shadows. To his contemporaries, Dürer’s images were vivid symbolic depictions of realities that they knew all too well. Because he illustrated the horsemen with realistic detail, they took on an even greater resonance.
How literally do you interpret the events described in Revelation?
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
D I G D E E P E R
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Albrecht Dürer
Forty, Sandra. Albrecht Dürer. Surrey, UK: TAJ Press, 2012.
Wolf, Norbert. Dürer. Köln: Taschen, 2006.
(1471–1528), German painter and engraver. A native of Nuremberg, at first he entered his father’s goldsmith business, but in 1486 began the study of wood-cutting under Michael Wolgemut. After travelling abroad, particularly to *Venice (1494/5 and 1505–7), he settled down at Nuremberg. Of his religious paintings, the best known are the Paumgärtner altar-piece (the Nativity between St George and St Eustace; before 1505) and the Four Apostles (1526), both at Munich, and the Adoration of the Magi (1504) at Florence; of his woodcuts, the series known as the Large Passion, the Small Passion, and the Life of the Virgin (all pub. in 1511); and of his engravings (which are characterized by closely observed landscape backgrounds), the Virgin with the Monkey (c. 1498), St Eustace (c. 1501), and St Jerome in his Study (1514).
Dürer provided links between Italian art and the Gothic North; a prime example of this interchange is the Feast of the Rose Garlands altar-piece (Prague), painted in Venice in 1506 for German clients. His woodcuts had much influence on Italian painters and were widely used as illustrations to Bibles in various languages, esp. his scenes of the Apocalypse (1498). Although he never renounced his Catholic faith, he felt sympathetic towards the *Reformation, and after his death he was eulogized by M. *Luther. He enjoyed the friendship of the Emp. Maximilian, *Erasmus, and many of the chief statesmen, humanists, and reformers of his day, some of whom he recorded in vivid portraits.
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 521.
I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.
Let’s explore together!
Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE
Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.
He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.
He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.
Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.
He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.
Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com
Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.
Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).
Order it HERE today.