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.

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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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