The Whore of Babylon, c. 1496-1497
woodcut on laid paper
38.8 x 28 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 2056)
This print closely follows an illustration in the earlier Cologne Bible, although Dürer completely made it his own with masterful technical flourishes. The image is complex, combining three chapters from Revelation, and suggests that the original illustrator had cleverly resolved how the texts could work together. The principal theme is God’s judgment of the great Whore of Babylon, seen seated to the right on a seven-headed beast (Rev. 17). Behind her appears the destruction of Babylon and the fire that will be her undoing (Rev. 18: 8). Above, an angel holds a millstone that he will cast into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (Rev. 18: 21). To the upper left, heavenly armies emerge from the clouds (Rev. 19:14). The Whore of Babylon, in the costume of a Venetian courtesan, holds a large, richly ornamented German goblet that contains her sins. Before her stands a crowd of admirers in contemporary German dress while, at the far left, a monk kneels in worship.