A Thousand Words
Albrecht Dürer's Vision of the Seven Candlesticks
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
In 1498, Albrecht Dürer published his Apocalypse, the first book to be planned, illustrated, and published by an artist. It was an audacious undertaking for a 27-year-old. No doubt he hoped to cash in on the anxiety that the world would end in a round-numbered year, 1500 in his case, but there was no guarantee of success for such a new departure. For one thing, Dürer's illustrations claimed the front sides of each page, while the text flowed in a continuous stream on the reverse, not necessarily in direct juxtaposition to the scenes illustrated. That is, the illustrations were trumps, and the biblical text secondary.
And what illustrations they were. Even today it is hard for us to conceive of the Four Horsemen without thinking of Dürer's flying wedge of terrors. But perhaps even more striking is his Vision of the Seven Candlesticks, in which the Evangelist describes the beatific vision in symbolic terms:
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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