With today’s 24/7 news cycle and the media’s endless obsession with death and destruction, it can be difficult to surmise whether or not the apocalypse is actually upon us. Fortunately, art history is here to help.
Mankind has always had an fixation with the end of the world. And really rich guys have always wanted pictures of it. Particularly in medieval Europe, the Last Judgement and its gruesome goings-on were prime subjects for artists. Artwork depicting these subjects can provide a useful point of reference for anxious millennials. If at any point CNN reports breaking news of falling stars, horsemen or avenging angels, it will really be time to worry.
The Opening of the Fifth Seal — El Greco (1608-1614)
The road map of the apocalypse provided by the Book of Revelations describes the breaking of several seals which will bring about various dooms upon mankind. Fortunately, angels will hand out some white robes to the chosen saved. You want one of those white robes.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — Albert Durer (1498)
If you come across four dudes on horseback, things are about to get much, much worse. Albert Durer produced this woodcut two years before 1500, which at the time was widely speculated to be the end of days.
The Apocalypse Tapestries — Jean Bondol and Nicholas Bataille (1377-1382)
It wasn’t on their registry at Macy’s but this french couple got a set of 90 tapestries depicting the Book of Revelation scene by scene. If you can’t slog your way through the biblical play-by-play, check out these gorgeously woven depiction of the end of the world.
The Virgin of the Apocalypse — Miguel Cabrera (1760)
If the Apocalypse looks this pretty perhaps it won’t be so bad. It’s also comforting to know that the cherubs will come to our defense against the giant dragon beast.
The Last Judgement Triptych– Hieronymus Bosch (1482)
Bosch lays it all out in this three paneled altarpiece. We have heaven/Eden on the left. The Last Judgement in the middle. And, of course, hell on the right. Lots of mutilated body part and gruesome beasts throughout.