Christian tradition says that Saint John the evangelist was banished by the Roman Emperor Domitian to the Greek island of Patmos at the end of his life. There, the visionary wrote the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelation. Martin Schongauer's engraving describes in detail one of the visions that the saint experienced. Seated at the seashore, the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared to him, clothed with sun, standing on a crescent moon, and crowned by twelve stars. here, John turns the pages of his book and holds a pen in his right hand, anxious to record what he has just seen. His attribute, the eagle, rests on a rock right before him.

In the artist's time, St. John the Evangelist was believed to have written the Book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos. Today, many biblical scholars consider John of Patmos a separate author who wrote the text about 90 years after the death of Christ.

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