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

The Revelation of St John: 15. The Angel with the Key to the Bottomless Pit

Woodcut, 398 x 286 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

In this last sheet of the Apocalypse, two events are combined in one: the incarceration of Satan in the foreground (Rev. 20:1- 3) and Jerusalem being pointed out in the background (Rev. 21:9-10). While Satan is forced by an angel into a hole in the ground that is to be closed up for ever, another angel is pointing the road out to St John in a scene behind them. He is supposed to rebuild the abandoned, half ruined city that is being guarded by angels - in the context of the general expectation, in about 1500, that the last days had come, this can be interpreted as a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire. The flock of birds diving towards them is a reference to the part of the text in which the angels order the birds to gather to eat the bodies (Rev. 19:17).