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The Silver Lining in the Apocalypse Museum

Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1497-98.

1,541 words

Albrecht Dürer died on April 6th, 1528. He was a highly influential painter and artist of the German Renaissance. Dürer was one of the first major artists to produce high-quality woodcuts and engravings that eventually spread throughout Europe, influencing future generations in various mediums and styles. While I grew up seeing Dürer’s artwork on many of my favorite heavy metal albums, I never knew his name until I went with an ex-girlfriend to a Christmas market in Vienna last December. Discovering his woodcuts was the highlight of the day and it taught me to find the silver lining in the most challenging of times, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thinking about my life in December seems like reminiscing about simpler times in a completely different world. I was living in Budapest with my girlfriend at the time. Due to our different work schedules, it was difficult for us to go out on dates. She came up with the idea for us to take a day trip to Vienna by bus to visit the famous Christmas market there. While I was interested in the idea at first, I eventually became hesitant and reluctant due to my work but also because of safety concerns. I kept thinking about the various terrorist attacks at Christmas markets in Germany and France between 2016 and 2018. While I hadn’t heard of any attacks in Austria, I did have a concern in the back of my mind that a similar tragedy could occur there as well. And due to my job at the time as an online contractor, I was also concerned about falling behind on my work assignments.

Nevertheless, relationships are all about compromise and learning when to pick your battles. The agreement for the trip was that I would focus on my work on the bus ride to Vienna and that we would both keep our eyes out for any suspicious “persons” at the Christmas market. To make a long story short, I didn’t get as much work done on the bus as I had planned, and this put me in a bad mood. To make matters more stressful, Vienna was colder than the weather forecast predicted and my girlfriend wasn’t dressed for such cold weather. While I offered to go souvenir shopping with her for a sweater and a scarf, she instead wanted to stay warm by going into some museums.

I will be completely honest and admit that I don’t like going to museums. I did enjoy history museums and classical art museums when I was younger, but it seems to me that the anti-white propaganda has increased in many modern museums and exhibits. Whether museums have always been like this or whether this has become the norm only within the last few years, all I know is that I have dreaded going to any museum with a girlfriend.

Due to the cold weather, I bit my tongue and found the nearest museum from where the bus dropped us off at. It turned out to be an art museum called the Albertina. As we were entering the museum, a school group of mostly non-white teens abruptly cut in front of us while also making it difficult for us to move around them. By the time we got to the ticket counter, the tickets were more expensive than were advertised on the price chart due to apparent “maintenance” costs. I begrudgingly paid for the tickets and tried to find an area of the museum that wasn’t very crowded. We started at the bottom level as that was the opposite direction of where the school groups and other guided tours were headed.

Just my luck! The bottom floor was the modern art section. And by modern art, I’m talking about all the subversive and stereotypical tropes that you think only occur in cartoons or comedic films. Believe me, this stuff exists. I was greeted with a huge painting of an African woman in European armor. Then I saw “paintings” that literally were just blotches of paint thrown onto the canvas. I told my girlfriend that the only thing missing was an “art piece” of a broken toilet with graffiti on it. I kid you not, the next room literally had a toilet with the word “capitalism” written on the floor next to it.

Being surrounded by all the modern art pieces was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I lost my temper and started complaining and arguing with my girlfriend about everything that had been bothering me that day. I complained about her pressuring me to take her to Vienna. I complained about not being able to get my work done on the bus. I complained that she didn’t dress warm enough and I even complained about having to spend money to see paint blotches and broken toilets. We then got into an argument and decided to cool off by exploring the museum separately.

Mark Twain famously explained that “humor is tragedy plus time.” Looking back, I laugh at how silly and immature I acted and how foolish I was to let such trivial issues jeopardize an amazing opportunity of traveling and sightseeing. But at the time, I was stressed out, angry, and frustrated, so I went in the opposite direction of my girlfriend and wandered to the top floor of the museum.

Then something amazing happened. I finally started seeing classical European paintings and sculptures. I then walked towards what appeared to be the main exhibit of an artist. I didn’t recognize the name, but I got a strong sense of deja-vu when I started seeing the various paintings and sketches in the exhibit. Then I saw the famous woodcut titled The Knight, Death and the Devil, and it hit me. This was the painter whose art was depicted on so many black metal albums I grew up with, such as Abigor, Moonblood, and Front Beast. As I looked around the room, I noticed a set of 15 woodcuts that I recognized from other heavy metal albums and demo tapes. I stepped closer and realized that the artist’s name was Albrecht Dürer. The 15 woodcuts were his Apocalypse collection.

In 1494, an outbreak of plague occurred in Nuremberg. Dürer was an aspiring painter and left the city just in time to go to Venice, where he would study under well-known artists. He would also learn and excel in woodcuts. Dürer would return to Nuremberg the following year and from 1497 to 1498 he would create his Apocalypse collection, the 15-panel woodcut depicting the most vivid scenes from the Book of Revelations.

Perhaps the most famous woodcut from this collection is The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This scene, which is based on Revelations 6:1-8, depicts four horsemen who represent pestilence, war, famine, and death. While Dürer himself was both talented and lucky enough to receive patronage to support his work and career, the world around him was often faced with the ongoing challenges of disease, military conflicts, food shortages, and death. So while all his paintings, sketches, and drawings are stunning to look at, there is a somber tone to many of his works of art that have chilling connections to our modern pandemic.

History has shown that when a deadly disease spreads through a society, it is only a matter of time before panic causes violence and the shortages of supplies cause starvation. While I don’t think that we are currently on the edge of a modern-day apocalypse, I would strongly caution everyone to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We have already seen looting by certain non-white groups and certain goods are either running out or are becoming undeliverable due to supply-chain issues. These situations together can create major issues for society, sometimes even deadlier than the disease that caused them in the first place.

Yet sometimes the most dramatic events in history usher in a wave of social reform, innovation, and prosperity. Even the last panel of Dürer’s Apocalypse depicts an angel holding the key that locks evil away for a thousand years. So perhaps the silver lining from Dürer’s Apocalypse is that while humanity may at times suffer through disease, violence, famine, and death, those who survive will eventually create a stronger and better future. Instead of globalization, open borders, and non-white immigration, we can build a better future with closed borders, ethnic nationalism, and white identity politics.

I eventually found my girlfriend in the museum and apologized to her for overreacting and letting minor annoyances ruin the day. She appreciated the honesty, and we went about our day sightseeing around Vienna and having lángos [1] and mulled wine at the various Christmas markets. While I had a great day with her overall, the highlight of the day was discovering Dürer’s artwork at the museum. It taught me the valuable lesson that even the worst circumstances can bring about the best experiences. Whatever the future has in store for us, I’m making the most out of each day by appreciating what I have while having hope for a better tomorrow. When this pandemic finally ends, I might even take my next girlfriend to a local art exhibit. After all, you never know what silver lining or apocalypse you might find at a museum.