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

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders of the Apocalypse

Woodcut, 399 x 286 mm
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the best known and most frequently referred to scene in the Apocalypse. After the opening of the first four seals (Rev. 6, 1- 8), the Horsemen enter the world and bring plague, war, hunger and death to mankind.

The four horsemen are 1) The `conqueror' holding a bow; 2) `War' with. a sword; 3) `Famine' with a pair of scales; 4) `Death', on a `sickly pale' horse, closely followed by Hades, a gaping jawed Leviathan. The horsemen have been variously interpreted. To the Middle Ages the first stood for Christ and the Church; but more commonly all four are seen as the agents of divine wrath.

The group of riders, accompanied by an angel, thunders across mankind and does not appear to touch the ground. Finally, Hades, the hellish creature at the side of the Four Horsemen is swallowing everything in his enormous jaws that Death, the final rider, has passed.