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  • Topic: Albrecht Dürer, Hell, Engraving
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RIDER, DEATH AND DEVIL
[Not marked as such, but probably after the etching Ritter, Tod und Teufel (1513) by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) - PA.] WALTER HEYMANN (1882-1915)
Translated by Peter Appelbaum
WALTER HEYMANN (1882-1915)
Translated by Peter Appelbaum

A strong brave knight must always ride
With Death and Devil by his side.

The Devil is his lancer man
Sticking the soft parts when he can.
Title: Knight, Death and Devil
The Christian knight in a northern forest
Artist: Albrecht Dürer
Germany, signed and dated AD 1513
Style: Northern Renaissance
Genre: Allegorical Painting
Technique: Engraving
Title: Knight, Death and Devil
The Christian knight in a northern forest
Artist: Albrecht Dürer
Germany, signed and dated AD 1513
Style: Northern Renaissance
Genre: Allegorical Painting
Technique: Engraving

He walks behind; with owl-attack
He looks into his armoured back

The look of death is full of pain
He is the horse’s strong neck-chain.

Who begs impertinent and old
And says to the ghost-rider: hold!

The knight is sitting on his steed
His visor open due to need.

The rider stares and rides and duels
With ghostly comrade that him rules

What weighs his armour down so low
What in his saddle happens so?

A righteous knight has got to ride
With Death and Devil by his side.

Where hell does stink and boils so grim
The Devil has forged arms for him

The armour which the rider wears
Is next to helmet, sword and spears

His leg is splinted all along
He follows whom he serves so long.

But now he must continuously
Death dog-like still accompany.

He is as thin as an old man
But journeys on as best he can.

The knight with pity then is fooled
Although the rider’s lance is hurled.

Hearts blood then comes all streaming out
And death does squint round him about.

He knows the tracery of iron
That rib cage struck by cruel design.

He knows a steel so hard extreme
It pulls from the Last Day’s beam.

He knows about the stroke so dire
He rides his last day with his Sir
‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil' (Psalm 23), could be a caption for this engraving. The horseman is the 'knight of Christ', a phrase that Dürer was to use of his contemporary Erasmus of Rotterdam, who had written a Handbook of the Christian Soldier in 1501. Death is at the horse's feet in the form of a skull, beside the plaque with Dürer's monogram. Death is also the ghastly corpse without nose or lips, who holds a hourglass up to the knight as a reminder that his time on earth is limited. The knight rides on, looking neither to the right, left, nor backwards, where the Devil, with an ingratiating grin, seems powerless while ignored. High above this dark forest rises a safe stronghold, apparently the destination of the knight's journey.

Dürer engraved three copper plates in 1513 and 1514 which have been called his Meisterstiche, or master prints, for their unequalled excellence. This print was the first, while St Jerome in his Study and Melancholia I followed in 1514. They share a similar size and format and an overall silvery tone with brilliant whites and blacks. Together the Meisterstiche represent Dürer's supreme achievement as an engraver.

E. Panofsky, The life and art of Albrecht D (Princeton University Press, 1945, 1971) *******************
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During 1513 and 1514 Dürer created the greatest of his copperplate engravings: the Knight, St Jerome in His Study, and Melencolia I - all of approximately the same size. The extensive, complex, and often contradictory literature concerning these three engravings deals largely with their enigmatic, allusive, iconographic details. Although repeatedly contested, it probably must be accepted that the engravings were intended to be interpreted together. There is general agreement, however, that Dürer, in these three master engravings, wished...
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