Dürer, Albrecht

St. Michael's fight against the dragon

1498 (330 Kb); Woodcut, 39.2 x 28.3 cm (15 x 11 1/8 in)

One of Durer's first great works was a series of large woodcuts illustrating the Revelation of St John. It was an immediate success. The terrifying, visions of the horrors of doomsday, and of the signs and portents preceding it, had never before been visualized with such force and power. There is little doubt that Durer's imagination, and the interest of the public, fed on the general discontent with the institutions of the Church which was rife in Germany towards the end of the Middle Ages, and was finally to break out in Luther's Reformation. To Durer and his public, the weird visions of the apocalyptic events had acquired something like topical interest, for there were many who expected these prophecies to come true within their lifetime.

Revelation xii.7:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

To represent this great moment, Durer discarded all the traditional poses that had been used time and again to represent, with a show of elegance and ease, a hero's fight against a mortal enemy. Durer's St Michael does not strike ally pose He is in deadly earnest. He uses both hands in a mighty effort to thrust his huge spear into the dragon's throat, and this powerful gesture dominates the whole scene. Round him there are the hosts of other warring angels fighting as swordsmen and archers against the fiendish monsters, whose fantastic appearance defies description. Beneath this celestial battlefield there lies a landscape untroubled and serene, with Durer's famous monogram.

© 28 Oct 1995, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info

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