The 1497 “Four Witches”
This Dürer print is currently known as the Four Witches because the animal in the lower left of this print has been interpreted as a devil and thus researchers believe the four naked women are witches. However, when this print was made in 1497, witches in medieval art and printing were not portrayed naked. Since symbolism in medieval art (called iconography) had to be instantly recognizable by the buying customers, it would be nonsensical to believe that these are witches, for no one in the society would interpret them as such. It wasn’t until late in the Renaissance that naked witches appeared in art or prints. Actually, one of Dürer’s famous apprentices, Hans Baldung Grien, was one of the first artists who illustrated naked witches.
Experts can’t even agree whether the date of “1497” which hangs on the decorated ball above the heads of the four women pictured is actually the date of the year that the print was manufactured (which it turns out it true, is does mark the date of 1497). This print should actually be called the Revelation of Truth because it enshrines the point at which Albrecht Dürer decided to start revealing his truth about his family.
This is a tribute picture to three female members of Dürer’s family-actually four-but the fourth does not include the dark woman in the background who is merely a servant; the woman directly in the center of the picture, whose name is Agnes, represents Durer’s wife, Agnes Frey Dürerin AND Agnes Dürerin, child #7 of Barbara Durerin, Mother, twin of Margaret Dürerin, Dürer’s sister, who supposedly died in childhood according to the Fake Family Chronicle but actually lived to age 38, dying in 1514 according to the the Nuremberg Bell Ringing Death Registries of 1439-1517 (the Nürnberg Totengeläut Bücher).
So let’s actually identify the symbols and placement of the symbols in the composition that are important to its real understanding. Let’s start at the top:
At the top of the picture directly in the middle we see a hanging sphere-actually two hanging spheres: -there is a ball suspended from something on the ceiling, attached to a set of three leaves, which covers another ornately decorated and ribbed sphere.
On this sphere are the numbers “1” “4’ “9” and “7” which is either a date or a code. It is a true date of 1497 so we will now only refer to it as what it really is-a date.
Below the date is a horizontal band crossing the sphere with the letters “O” “G” and “H” on it. The numerous arcane explanations for these letters that have been postulated in the past will not be delved into here. The three letters identify who the three women in the foreground are.
The “H’ letter is formed with a very strange cross bar-it is a dash connected to an UPSIDE half circle, like a horseshoe, and then connected to another dash . An H made with a dash and a non-upside down horseshoe and then a dash was a very common merchant mark in Nuremberg at the time and was used as official initials for important people in Nuremberg at the time. One example is Hartmann Schedel, the author of the famous Nuremberg Chronicles, who used the “H” with the rightside up horseshoe part as his initial as you see above in his special edition colophon of the June 1493 Nuremberg VIP Latin Nuremberg Chronicle edition. So we must pay attention to that the horseshoe part of the “H” is upside down of this horseshoe crossbar. In other words, it’s backwards from normal, a typical backward Dürer clue.
We have a scene that is taking place in the interior of some structure; because of the nudity of the woman and the supposed devil on the left side, it has often been assumed that these women are in a woman’s bath. Nothing is further from the truth; the scene is taking place in the interior of a Dürer household.
There are two entrances/doorways in the scene. To the left is an open door with a “devil” creature holding an implement with flames coming from that level.
To the right is an arched doorway with a step up threshold in front of it.
There are two levels that the women stand on; the left figure and the maiden in the middle are on the top platform of the level of that part of the house, the rectangle in the foreground is actually a step for the lower platform of that level in the house.
The woman on the right who is in front of the darker complected woman is standing on the lower level of that part of the house, but that platform drops off, indicating that there is a lower level in front of the right hand figure.
All women are naked which was done for marketing purposes.
There is drapery in the picture but the drapery is held by the servant in the back of the picture; the dark complected servant holds the drapery, which falls around the right hand female figure and covers her genitalia.
The right hand woman wears a very particular Fruilian type headdress; this headdress is repeated in other pictures, especially the 1498 Great Satyr engraving, erroneously known as Hercules at the Crossroads and they are the same women in both of these prints. In fact, this headdress was drawn by Andrea Mantegna in Mantegna’s Death of Orpheus, and Durer has copied the Fruilian headdress as an identifier of this woman whenever he uses this headdress. This woman stares at the left hand female figure, not the middle female figure. Her feet are deformed.
The middle female figure is only shown with her back to the viewer. Her hair is tied in a knot with tresses blowing to the left, indicating motion. She wears a wreath around her head. At her feet is a skull. At the left hand foot of the right female figure is a leg bone. The skull (head) and the long leg bone (the leg of the body) indicates that the middle maiden and the right-hand female are related.
The dark complected fourth female in the background wears a servant’s turban on her head; she stares off at no one for she is not important to the meaning.
The left hand figure wears a very elaborate headdress on her head, indicating that she is married. There is a very distinctive veil connected to the headdress, which covers the women’s eyes and part of her nose. The way that this veil is drawn suggests that something “double” is being depicted; the way the veil hangs seems to form a nose and yet we can see another nose that is the real nose of the woman.
Hiding behind the left hand door is a supposed devil holding an implement with mouth open and flames at the bottom of the figure. This creature is actually a dragon, for devils had to have horns to be a devil and he holds some sort of tool used in printing.
And with these simple symbols we can decode the entire meaning of the print-the momentous turning point in Albrecht Durer’s life.
Let’s start with the symbols that Dürer consistently uses over and over again-his “cipher,” so we can discern its meaning. There is no better place to start than the top, with the “ball or sphere.” We have already seen that the spheres in Durer’s compositions are tribute balls and that Dürer is giving tribute to these women.
So we see that Dürer reached back into his Hungarian ancestral iconography instead of using Italian iconography. By doing this he could hide his “code” in plain sight, knowing that he would completely deflect a proper interpretation.
In the case of the Revelation of Truth print we have TWO balls in the picture suspended from the ceiling directly at the top-indicating “double” tribute. Then Dürer highly decorated one of the tribute balls so that the viewer’s eye would be drawn to it-because that’s where Dürer encoded his clues as to the meaning of the print.
This is not an ordinary ball. This is a Hungarian ball. How do we know it’s a Hungarian ball? Because the ball is ribbed. Here’s what was happening in Hungary regarding the manufacture of pottery in medieval times:
“The most popular findings of Hungarian archaeological excavations were ceramic pots or their fragments. The pots of 15th-16th-century potters were made on revolving discs, manipulated by foot. One of the most widespread type of ceramics was the stove tile. Onion-shaped, glass-shaped and square (at the mouth) tiles were the most popular ones. The color of the burnt-out clay was red, white and gray in this period.
Stove tiles with a yellow and green glazing were of several types, and represented buildings (castle), parts of buildings (copies of windows) religious scenes, coats-of-arms, shield animals, ornaments and contemporary persons (women’s heads, knights), and animals of tales, legends and myths. (The stove tiles become an important Hungarian clue in the Temptation of the Idler).
The royal workshop of the 15th century was very famous, on the stove of which king Sigismund’s coat-of-arm and his palace were represented along with other beautifully made tiles.
Other typical objects of the age were gray casting moulds for goldsmiths and distillers. The most widespread kitchen dishes were various white, gray and red lids and pots (the pots were decorated with rib shapes on the outside), and there were three-legged pots with handles, which were glazed inside. Grey Austrian imported pots were also popular. Fine products were thin, white goblets decorated with engraved lines or rib shaped or white, yellow or red jugs and jars. Mugs were red, gray and yellow, and they often had a loop. Among glazed dishes found in Buda there were decorated or painted cups and hand-washers; as well as a lot of German and Czech ceramic fragments.”
So what Dürer is telling us by this ribbed ball of tribute along with the smaller ball of tribute above it is that he is giving tribute to two concepts and this scene is taking place in the home of a Hungarian-the Hungarian Dürers to be exact. This picture is about the Hungarian Dürer family and their alliance by marriage with the Freys of Nuremberg.
Now let’s look at the leaves on the ribbed Hungarian pottery. Most art historians have identified these leaves as the leaves of a Mandrake root. According to the Illustrated Bartsch Herbals through 1500, Vol 90 Commentary (a scholastic reference book), mandrake root represented buried treasure or it brought luck and money to the household that possessed it, in this case also representing protection; the mandrake root was a talisman that was the family guardian. Mandrake root was so prized and revered, that it was passed on in inheritances. As late as 1630, the sale of mandrake was prohibited in Hamburg, Germany (and probably other cities as well) in order to prevent witchcraft. It was a capital offense to posses it in Hamburg. In this case the mandrake root leaves indicate that this representation of the Hungarian Dürer family requires PROTECTION of the utmost sort. We will find out that this certainly is true-for the secret that this composition reveals is one that could have dire consequences for the entire Dürer family and all connected to the Dürer family.
We continue on with the numbers and the letters. Once the real meaning of the letters is discerned, we establish quickly that 1497 is an actual date in this print. What was occurring in Dürer’s life in 1497 was that Dürer was heavily involved in the production of the Apocalypse woodcuts. This composition indicates that Albrecht Dürer quickly realized that his creation of the Apocalypse woodblocks was a tool of evil propaganda-he was creating a book that could cause his own destruction and his people.
And so we continue onto the letters, the “O” to the left identifying the left female figure, the “G” in the middle, identifying the middle family figure and the “H” With the UPSIDE DOWN horseshow crossbar (a merchant’s mark redesigned) which identifies the right female figure. Whenever we find a symbol that is upside down or backwards in a Dürer print, it’s a Jewish symbol, an indication of Margret’s involvement in making the print, or a Hungarian signifier.
These letters are LATINIZED Greek letters. Throughout the history of the development of the Phoenician, Sumerian, Greek, and Latin alphabets, the “H,” eta, was the 8th letter of the alphabet, the “G” was the 7th letter of the alphabet but the “O”-the Omicron-has historically been considered the 15th letter of the alphabet. However, deep research into the actual Greek and Roman alphabet development reveals that “O” omicron was originally the 16th letter of the alphabets and only became the 15th letter as other letters were added or dropped.
So what we have above the women’s heads on the Hungarian tribute ball hanging in the Dürer household is “O”- number 16, “G”- number 7 who represents two people of the same name, Agnes I the 7th child of 18, the twin of #8, Margret, who died as in childhood, and of course “H” with the upside down crossbar and deformed feet is child #8 Margret.
THESE letters correspond to the birth position of 3 of Dürer’s sisters:
Child #16 was Christina, born on May 9, 1488, named after her godmother Krystina Pernhardin (Bernhardin), the wife of Bernhard Walther, the famous Nuremberg astronomer, who owned the house that eventually Durer bought in 1509 and is now the DürerHaus museum in Nuremberg.
Child # 7 was the first of the twins, Agnes I, born January 20, 1476, followed by the birth of her twin sister Margaret, child #8, who was not assigned a godmother in history and supposedly died in childbirth, erasing her from history.
So the left figure, a married woman (because of the headdress), is Christina. Looking down as in shame, her face covered with a veil. The middle figure is the “double” Agnes-the sister Agnes I and the wife Agnes (the wreath on this figure tells us that Dürer is also referring to his wife Agnes but we explain that later) who’s face we do not see, and the right hand female figure is Margret, looking directly at Christina in disgust.
The middle Agnes is indicated as a maiden but also a married woman by the wreath on her head, and a Hungarian Dürer Agnes. Her head is bowed, eye tilted towards right, towards Margret. She wears Hungarian insignia: Hungarian women braided polished shells and beads into their plaits and put decorated discs at the ends. Bracelets gathered up the sleeves of their clothes. Hair rings with S-endings made of bronze or silver were typical common jewels at the age of the Conquest and the foundation of the Hungarian state. Agnes has a prominent “s” tress of hair hanging down her back.
The wreath that Agnes wears is a laurel wreath. We will discover from other prints that when Dürer uses a laurel wreath, he is identifying a member of the Frey family-I this case Agnes Frey Dürerin.
The dark complected figure in the background is a servant, indicating the wealth of the family-wealthy enough to have servants.
Before we get into the in depth discussion of what these three woman are revealing about the Dürer family secrets, lets turn to the “devil” in the left side of the picture.
This ‘devil’ is NOT a devil because it has no horns; it is a dragon. And it holds some sort of implement used in printing. In fact it’s the same dragon that Durer painted as part of his father’s coats of arms on the back of Dürer’s diptych of his father and mother which Durer painted in 1490. What is the significance of a dragon to a Hungarian and to Dürer in particular-i.e. Why does Albrecht the Elder’s coat of arms contain a dragon?
The answer lies in the creation of the Order of the Defeated Dragon, created by Hungarian King Sigismund in 1418, a knightly noble order that is still in existence today. Here’s the history of the Order of the Defeated Dragon and the current living members of this existing knightly order (see Dracula, Dragons, and Dürer)
So why the veil indicating “two” of something on Christina? Christian is the female version of “Christian” but Christina is not Christian except on the “outside,” for the Dürer’s are crypto-Jews. The veil covering Chrisitina’s face is what indicates that. Jewish women in general had to cover their hair and faces in public in medieval times and most in Jews in Europe were also forced to wear yellow badges and the men conical hats. As deference to the important part Jews played in Nuremberg society, the edict regarding the wearing of veils for women was changed to allow them some shred of dignity and the veils were blue, which is why this veil is creating a “double” meaning of a false Christian and real Jew.
The skull and leg bone, the two parts of the body that were distinctly scarred by syphilis, are indicating the connection of Margret to the center figure Agnes I her sister who died, and Agnes Freyin Dürerin Albrecht’s wife. The Freys may have also been crypto-Jews, which is why the marriage alliance may really have been made. However by 1497, Agnes the wife has stil not produced an heir after five years of marriage and Margret may be accusing Agnes of having syphilis, making her barren and being disgusted at the whole situation. We find out more about his family feud in The 1498 Great Satyr.
BUY THE BOOK! CRIMES IN THE ART: THE SECRET CIPHER OF ALBRECHT DÜRER
 C.J.S. Thompson, p. 36 as quoted in the Bartsch Herbals Through 1480-1500, Vol 90, Commentary, Abaris Inc, 1984.