Albrecht Dürer

The Angel with the Key of the Bottomless Pit

The Angel with the Key of the Bottomless Pit by Albrecht Dürer

Artwork Detail

Apocalypse is the Greek word for a revelation or vision, or for any writing that claims to reveal hidden things imparted by God, especially future events. The Revelation of St John in the New Testament was written around 70 AD, to give courage to the infant Church in the face of bitter persecution, when there was no sign of Christ's imminent return. In the final chapters the Devil, a personification of the Church's enemies, is thrown into the bottomless pit and locked up for 1000 years and an angel shows the weary St John the 'New Jerusalem', Christ's kingdom on earth, which lies ahead. Apocalyptic imagery was widespread at the end of the Middle Ages, a time of religious and political upheaval, with Europe on the brink of the Reformation, which would change the Church for ever. Dürer distilled 15 composite images from the Revelation stories, produced large, action-filled woodcuts, and printed the related biblical texts on the back of the paper; at the age of 27 he was the first artist ever to conceive, illustrate and publish his own book. A supreme master of bold, expressive line, Dürer makes the visions of St John seem real, without destroying their phantasmagoric quality. (from The Guide, 2001)

The Angel with the Key of the Bottomless Pit
Albrecht Dürer
Production date
circa 1498
392 x 282 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Auckland Institute and Museum, 1968
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

To find out which artworks are available for print requests and reproduction please enquire here. This service only applies to select artworks in the Gallery's collection.