The Four Holy Men is a panel painting created by Albrecht Dürer in 1526, which currently resides in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek. The painting features larger than life-sized figures of four apostles: St. John, St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Mark in oil on lime wood material. Two panels make up the painting which was offered to the city fathers of Nuremberg in 1526 as a remembrance.
The figures are depicted with detailed realism, showing every wrinkle and fold of their clothing. The most prominent figure is St. John who holds an open New Testament to the necessary words of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…”. Though all figures are dressed similarly in drapery cloths, each can be distinguished from their symbolical attributes; for example, St. Peter holds keys to signify his position as keeper of heaven’s gates while Paul has a sword representing his martyrdom.
This masterpiece is not only testament to Dürer’s advanced skill but also serves as an emblem of German humanism since it captures religious elements that define Christianity reconciled into fine art at a time when art was centered around secular subjects instead.