108. Albrecht Dürer

Not illustrated
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
(B. 64: M., Holl. 167; S.M.S. 115)
Size: 39.2 x 28.2 cm
Circa 1498

Our great bard Bob Dylan wrote: ‘Senor, senor, tell me where you’re heading, Lincoln County or Armageddon’, showing that the spectre of the Apocalypse is still very much with us. This idea has been constantly present, and most obviously resurgent in times of troubles; for example in the 14th century after the Black Death, and in the early 17th century with the Rosicrucian manifestos. It is interesting that Joachim of Fiore, the 12th-century mystic of Calabria, whose millennial predictions became so influential, operated in an area that previously had been a major centre of the Orphic cult. Do not believe, however, that this kind of thinking is a thing of the past; it is very much alive and kicking. It often takes strange turns, like Jonestown and the Culte du Soleil, or the hordes that converged on a mountain in South-West France at the end of 1999 to be airlifted by a spaceship out of this sinful world. Many have been the groups of believers who have ascended mountains to escape the End of the World, as predicted by some self-proclaimed prophet. The interesting thing is that when the End doesn’t come as predicted, they are disappointed. And the question is: why? Why is total destruction preferable to survival, and humanity’s general messy carry-on? The answer must be that the tension created by the unresolvable situation of being human is unbearable, and therefore any kind of resolution is preferable to the uncertainty with which we live.