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Albrecht Dürer

(German, 1471–1528)

Knight, Death, and the Devil

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Object Details

Artist

Albrecht Dürer

Date

1513

Medium

Engraving

Dimensions

9 3/4 × 7 3/8 inches (24.8 × 18.7 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Margaret Treman and Charles E. Treman, Jr., Class of 1930, Endowment

Object
Number

2004.043

Although Dürer referred to this engraving simply as Reiter (“Rider”), its complex composition h(…)

Although Dürer referred to this engraving simply as Reiter (“Rider”), its complex composition has elicited many interpretations. Some believe it is a response to Erasmus’s Handbook of a Christian Knight (published in 1503 and reprinted in 1509 and 1515), in which every Christian is urged “to live as a soldier in the service of God, traversing the rough path of life on earth fortified by weapons given to him by Faith.” For Italian painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari the print’s virtuosity was most captivating: “In order to depict human fortitude, [Dürer] engraved an armed man on horseback with such perfection that even the glitter of his weapons and the coat of his black horse can be discerned. This stalwart horseman had Death, hour-glass in hand beside him, and the Devil behind. There was also a long-haired dog, executed with the most subtle delicacy.” In 2004, the Johnson acquired this rich, early impression Knight, Death, and the Devil, completing the trio of Dürer’s so-called “master prints” at Cornell after fifty years of collecting. The three prints—Knight, Death, and the Devil; Melancholia I; and Saint Jerome in His Study—all date to 1513–14 and allow the Museum to fully present the pinnacle of the artist’s skill as an engraver. There are more than one hundred prints by Dürer in the Johnson’s collection. (“Highlights from the Collection: 45 Years at the Johnson,” curated by Stephanie Wiles and presented at the Johnson Museum January 27–July 22, 2018)

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