The Four Horsemen, c. 1496-1498
woodcut on laid paper
39 x 28.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6165)
This print, like the one entitled "The Beast with Lamb's Horns", belongs to a series of fifteen woodcuts made to illustrate the last book of the New Testament, the "Apocalypse of John", also known as the "Book of Revelation". Beginning in 1498, the series was issued in two editions with overleaf text, German in one edition and Latin in the other. This impression, however, remarkable in its quality, is an individual proof made on a fine, smooth paper. Taken from the sixth chapter of the "Apocalypse", it shows four horsemen, who take up the centre of the composition and embody, from top to bottom, War, Discord, Famine, and, in the foreground, Death. Beneath his feet, the gaping mouth of Hades is about to gobble up a bishop.