Tag: death

Albrecht Dürer’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I found this image while looking at the Adam and Eve one, and thought I’d post it here, as I’ve already written about the Four Horsemen. *Of course, since this blog is arranged chronologically, you’ll have to scroll down to find them. Thankfully, I’ve tagged every single post I’ve made, so you’ll be able to find them (and the Whore of Babylon) by clicking on the “book of revelations” tag.

The image depicts the titular squad riding during the apocalypse, as the title suggests. An angel watches over them, so the viewer can infer that the woodcut print depicts Judgement Day. From right to left, I can guess that the horsemen are Conquest, War, Famine, and, lastly, Death. I first mistook Death for Famine, but the rider in the middle holds the scales, not the one on the bottom. Therefore, I have to presume that the bottom-left rider is Death.

The person in the most bottom-left corner, who appears to be being eaten by a demon of some sort, is wearing a fancy Pope hat. In the bottom-right corner, I can just barely make out a monk’s tonsure, nearly hidden by a man’s leg. The other people are dressed simply, so they’re probably commoners. The people at the bottom of the image remind me of some of Hans Holbein’s Danse Macabre prints — no matter your status (pope, commoner or clergy), you will die during Judgement Day all the same. For those same reasons, the image also serves as an example of memento mori. Remember, that no matter how many holy deeds you preformed or how high your status in society, that you will die.

Posting two Dürer images near-simultaneously seems like shameless pandering to me, but I think this is fine, as our dear professor does this all the time, anyway.

Image source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/19.73.209/

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The Four Horsemen (pt. 4)

The Columbian Exchange was great for the Europeans – they received new, nutritient-dense foods, new land, and new people to enslave and abuse.

It wasn’t so great for the Native Americans, who were killed off by the Europeans. They were killed off by a triad of things: squalid working conditions in enslavement, fighting against the Europeans (who had superior war technology), and, most of all, disease.

The native population of the Americas, prior to 1492, is usually estimated to have been around 50 million people. After European influence (around 1650), the native population had been reduced to less than 6 million. Such a high fatality rate leads into our long-awaited final horseman of the Apocalypse: Death.


When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

— Revelation 6:7-8

PaleRider2

After war, after pestilence, after famine, comes death. Thus, I feel it’s only natural to write about Death after having already covered the other 3. Of course, to the reader (Mark?), this will be the first post of the four, as my blog is organized chronologically, with the most recent post at the top.

As always, the traditional Grim Reaper motif is prominent in this design, with the reaping scythe making him the most “authentic” reaper of the 4. In the Book of Revelation, Death and his horse are described as being “pale”. No particular color is attributed to them – in Kaneko’s art here, he decided to make the horse a pale gray, while Death himself has the reaper’s signature skull-face and cloak, matching the other Horsemen in the set. Anyways, Death being described as “pale” is probably due to how the “deathly pallor” that sets in postmortem due to lack of blood circulation.

Kaneko’s Death has a very serious pose. He sits tall and imposing and faces forward, as if slowly approaching the viewer. After all, death is something that affects us all. No matter what we do, we’ll all end up dying someday, which is what the phrase “momento mori” suggests. In his hands, Death holds a reaping scythe. This is significant, as he is the harvester of souls. Thus, a farming scythe, as he is depicted with, is much more of a suitable symbol for him than a war scythe, which is mounted on the pole such that the blade points up, like a spear.

Honestly, I don’t have much more to say here. Let’s enjoy this moment of death, shall we?