Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (B. 117; M., Holl. 218; S.M.S. 104)
woodcut, 1497, on laid paper, a good impression, in very good condition
397 x 285 mm.
Charles Naudet au Louvre 1818
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand is an oil painting by Albrecht
Dürer, dating to 1508 and now at theKunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, Austria.
It is signed on a cartouche which hangs from the artist's self-portrait in the
center, saying Iste fatiebat Ano Domini 1508 Albertus Dürer Aleman.
The painting was commissioned by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony for
the All Saints' Church, Wittenberg.Frederick
had been Dürer's patron since 1496. He himself chose the subject, as his
collection of relics included some of the Ten thousand martyrs.
The similar 1496 woodcut.
Dürer had used the same subject for a woodcut of
some ten years before, but in the new work he eliminated some macabre details
such as the torture of the bishop Acacius,
having his eyes stripped through a drill. This scene was replaced by a
crucifixion on the right and by the presence of the bishop in chains behind it.
The work was repeatedly mentioned in the correspondence
between the artist and Jakob Heller of Frankfurt.
Dürer received 280 florins for it.
The painting illustrates the legendary martyrdom of ten
thousand Christian soldiers perpetrated on Mount Ararat by
the King of Persia, Shapur I, by the order of the Roman emperor Hadrian or Antoninus
Pius, or, according to other sources,Diocletian.
Dürer painted numerous different martyrdom scenes within a
forest with clearings and cliffs. In the foreground are crucifixions,
decapitations, crushing with a hammer. The Persian King is portrayed as an
Ottoman sultan, riding a horse on the right. The executioners also wear gaudy Ottoman dress.
In the background are prisoners walking through to a cliff from where they are
thrown down against rocks and thorny bushes, as well as scenes of fighting,
stoning and hitting with huge clubs.
At the center of the crowded scene, dressed in black, are
two characters who walk placidly, apparently unaware of the horrors around
them: one is Dürer's self-portrait (holding his signature), the other his
friend and humanist Conrad Celtes, who had died a few months before
the execution of the painting.