In the engraving “The Wife Clothed in the Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon” Albrecht Durer illustrates chapter 12 of the book “Revelation” of John the Theologian:
“And there appeared in heaven a great sign: a woman clothed with the sun, under her feet the moon, and at her head a crown of twelve stars.” She had a belly, and she cried out for pain and birth.
And she gave birth to a male child, to whom all nations should shepherd the rod with iron; and her child was enraptured to God and his throne.
And the wife was given two wings of a large eagle, so that she
Albrecht Durer in detail depicted on the engraving all the events: The wife clothed in the sun on the engraving is depicted on the left. This is a charming young woman, her head is crowned with a crown and there is not a shadow of fear on her face.
Below to the right is the evil, seven-headed Dragon, who again pursues Wife, but she is given “two wings…” Pursuing her, the dragon starts a water stream after it, but the earth will soon swallow him up.
Theologians of different ages treat the sun and the moon as symbols of the church and kingdom: “the sun above the head of the wife symbolizes the authority of the priesthood, and the moon under her feet means the radiance of royal power.” But other theologians emphasize that in the story of John on his wife’s head is not a crown, but a crown symbolizing glory.
Durer knew from the sermons: the seven heads of the dragon denote seven deadly sins: envy, laziness, pride, lust, gluttony, rage and avarice. The more disgusting he will make of them. Distorted muzzles – camels, boar, lion’s, pysyas and three other unknown animals, gaping mouths, elongated tongues, bristles, scales, serrated horns, necks, writhing like snakes, sharp claws, reptile body, but on cat’s legs, huge bare tail, webbed wings – everything connected here, which can cause a feeling of fear and disgust – “Seven-headed dragon”.
To each neck he gave his bend, each head a special turn, combining them with a common rhythm. It turned out something extremely complicated, but not formidable, but unexpectedly elegant and entertaining. The enumeration was superfluous. The mysterious must be unsaid.
But since he needed to make the Solar woman and baby visible, he portrayed them as Mary and Christ. In this he dutifully followed the tradition – one of the examples of how much in his “Apocalypse”, among the new, unprecedented, not one artist has yet appeared, old, art-related past decades and even centuries.