.. and I looked, and beheld a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The Four Horsemen is arguably the most dramatic and dynamic of all of Dürer's compositions. We see the four horsemen as they burst out of heaven, one after the other, and thunder over the earth. Death is the last to come, grinning triumphantly on his haggard old mare. The mouth of hell opens up below, devouring a 'lord of the earth' - perhaps a bishop or king. No-one is spared, women, men, clerics, monks and peasants all fall beneath their hoofs.
Everything conveys a sense of violence and rupture; the four riders are barely contained within the image as the right borderline cuts through an arrow, the horse's head and the peasant falling in the foreground. Panofsky observed that the three horses in the air are shown at different intervals of their galloping movement, thereby creating the impression of time and continuity, not unlike Eadweard Muybridge's photographic recordings of bodies in motion almost five hundred years later.
The Apocalypse was published by Dürer himself, the first illustrated book ever published by an artist.
The present impression of the Latin text edition of 1498 does not yet show any signs of the crack from the lower edge of the block at left into the skeletal foot of the figure of Death. It is an indication that at least parts of the first editions of 1498, both with German and Latin text, were printed very early and in fact predate many of the so-called proof-impressions, which usually do show the crack.