barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

The Vision of the Seven Candlesticks 

Nuremberg, 1511

Woodcut

Paper: 392 x 282 mm; mount 556 x 405 mm

After the death of Christ, his discipline John journeyed to Patmos to escape persecution. In the dark recesses of a cave, John witnessed a series of miraculous visions of the Apocalyptic Christ. Crucified for claiming to be the Son of God, Christ returned to confirm his divine status. He instructed John to spread the good news of his vision to the seven churches of Asia Minor (represented by the seven stars and candlesticks) and testify to Christ’s majesty. In awe of his appearance, John falls to his knees in amazement. The author is presented as an authority and reliable witness to Christ, an illustration that strengthened the circulation of his writings. 

Dürer has presented a feast of complex symbols to represent the Apocalyptic return of Christ as it was foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Revelation. These include the double-edged sword protruding from his mouth that reiterated Christ’s role as a supreme judge over the souls of Humankind (Hebrews 4:12). Dürer’s knowledge of these interesting idioms reflect his intellectual capacity as an artist deeply familiar with the Christian Bible. Unravelling these sumptuous clues would have been a source of fascination to the artist’s patrons and contemporaries. 

Purchased 1956 (No.56.1)

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