DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

The Revelation of St John: 1. The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist

Woodcut, 395 x 282 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

The Martyrdom of St John is Dürer's first illustration for the Apocalypse, although Revelation does not contain an account of it. There is, however, an account in the Legenda Aurea. According to it, St John refused to sacrifice to heathen Gods and was, therefore, condemned by the Roman Emperor Domitian to suffer a martyr's death in a bath of boiling oil. The Evangelist survived the intended martyrdom unscathed. He wrote down the visions that he had experienced during his martyrdom while in exile on the island of Patmos.

Dürer transposed the events into his own age and described the martyrdom in a very naturalistic manner. Domitian and his thugs appear as Turkish heathens in magnificent garments while members of various classes and nations are assembled in the pensive audience.