The Four Horsemen presents images of death and disaster in prints, illuminated manuscripts, illustrated books and paintings from the fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. This was a period of great turmoil in Europe, during which bitter religious conflict, war, famine and pestilence generated deep anxiety. Dramatic events and natural disasters were increasingly read as divine punishments or warnings that the Last Days were imminent.
This exhibition explores the ways in which artists gave expression to the beliefs and fears that plagued individuals and whole societies. The 120 works on display, including Albrecht Dürer’s extraordinary woodcuts illustrating the Apocalypse, prints by Hans Holbein, Jacques de Gheyn and Jacques Callot, illustrate witches, monsters, demons and the Devil. Death, personified as a skeleton, featured prominently in the visual culture of the period, and is represented in all guises - dancing, riding on horseback, and stalking unsuspecting men and women as they go about their daily lives.
The works in this exhibition are drawn from the Prints & Drawings collection of the NGV and include key loans from the State Library of Victoria and the Special Collections of the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne.