Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




A Battle that Changed the World

An eyewitness to a cosmic event



Dreadful he may be, but Alexander possesses supernatural powers. If those eyes hadn't looked at me that way, that battle would not have been lost. I would not have fled.

Monologue spoken by King Darius, in Klaus Mann's Alexander: A Utopian Novel, 1929


Albrecht Altdorfer

The Battle of Alexander (details)

Darius fleeing

Alexander in pursuit

The camp outside Issus, as Altdorfer imagined the scene


Alexander, whom posterity styles "the Great", was twenty-three years old when he and his Greek troops encountered an adversary old enough to be his father, King Darius III of Persia. Battle was joined on the plain of Issus, an old Mediterranean port near what is now the Turkish-Syrian border, in 333 ВС. The brilliant Alexander, a pupil of the philosopher Aristotle, managed to break into the Persian left flank. He is said to have looked so piercingly into Darius s eyes that the Persian king fled. His troops panicked and the massacre that ensued lasted until late that night.

During the battle Darius's mother, wife and children were captured. Alexander treated them honourably, which earned him the respect of the Persians. As hostages, however, they did influence Darius's behaviour. Yet, when Darius showed readiness to compromise, Alexander refused his offer. His decision made world history. He wanted to conquer Persia, but much more he wanted to rule the world: "Should you desire to know what my aim is, you should know that the bounds of my new Empire will be those that God has set the earth." After defeating Darius a second time, he conquered Egypt, the kingdom of Babylon and eastern Persia, calling himself the "King of all Asia." He drove the borders of his vast empire far beyond what is now Pakistan, all the way east to India and the banks of the River Bias. His victories were not merely political. More importantly, he carried Hellenic culture with him everywhere he went. He also promoted religious tolerance, including of Judaism. Napoleon thought highly of him, admiring in particular Alexander's ability to win the hearts of the peoples he conquered.

Albrecht Altdorfer was the first great painter to take landscape as his exclusive subject matter. He represented the historic Battle of Issus as one of his contemporaries, the German physician and scholar Paracelsus, might have viewed it: an epic struggle of life and death fought out on a cosmic scale, whose drama is reflected in the swirling clouds above and the endless vista beyond.


Albrecht Altdorfer
(с 1480—1538)
The Battle of Alexander
Alte Pinakothek, Munich


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