Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand (c.1496) by Albrecht Durer

Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand - Albrecht Durer - c.1496

Artwork Information

TitleMartyrdom of the Ten Thousand
ArtistAlbrecht Durer
Art MovementNorthern Renaissance
Current LocationAlbertina, Vienna, Austria

About Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand

The artwork entitled “Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand” is a woodcut created by Albrecht Dürer circa 1496 during the Northern Renaissance. This religious painting reflects the genre it embodies, offering a visualization of spiritual narratives that were common in art of that time period. The piece is currently housed in the Albertina, Vienna, Austria. It is notable for its intricate detail and the artist’s skill in the medium of woodcut.

The woodcut illustrates a dramatic and chaotic scene filled with a multitude of figures, portraying the legendary massacre of the Ten Thousand Christians on Mount Ararat, as ordered by the Persian King. The landscape is rugged and mountainous, providing a stark backdrop to the violence taking place. The carving is meticulous, with fine lines depicting the detailed expressions and actions of the figures, many of whom are in the throes of execution. You can observe various methods of martyrdom, including crucifixion, beheading, and other forms of torture. The artwork is dense with activity, guiding the viewer’s eye across the suffering of the martyrs and the cruelty of their executioners. Notable too, is the use of stark contrast, typical of woodcuts, which amplifies the emotional intensity of the scene. Dürer’s monogram “AD” can also be found within the artwork, marking his authorship. Overall, “Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand” is a powerful example of Dürer’s work and the religious fervor of the era in which it was created.

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