- Museum number
Knight, Death and the Devil; a knight riding his horse to the left; figures of Death, on a horse and holding an hour glass, and the Devil behind. 1513
- Production date
Height: 248 millimetres
Width: 191 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Entry from 'Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy' exh cat BM 2002-3, no.126:
'With his two other master engravings, 'Melancholia' and 'St Jerome in his Study' (see cat.nos 128, 130) this is one of the most famous and influential of all Dürer's works. Dürer referred to it simply as "Reuter" (rider) in his Netherlands diary, where he records that he sold one impression on 24 November, 1520 and gave one away on 11 February, 1521, but the presence of the other figures suggest a more complex subject which has been the focus of continual comment. Vasari wrote of it admiringly: 'In order to depict human fortitude, he [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, ' (see Vasari, V, p.7); and Joachim von Sandrart, in 1675, called it "the Great Christian Knight". The present title dates back to H.S.Hüsgen's listing of Dürer's prints in 1778. Among the various heroes it has been thought to represent are Martin Luther, Savanarola, Pope Julius II (who died in 1513) and the much feared warrior knight, Franz von Sickingen (1481-1523 ), who in 1513 attacked the city of Worms with 7000 men on behalf of a citizen who had been expelled. The print may simply represent Dürers response to Erasmus' "Handbook of the Christian Knight" ('Enchiridion militis christiani', published in 1502 and re-printed 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.
Dürer's interest in the representation of the horse pervades all his work, from the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' in 1498 (cat.no 271) through 'St Eustace' in c.1501 (cat.no 74) to his companion prints of the 'Large Horse' and the 'Small Horse' in 1505 (see cat.nos.180, 181). The powerful head and neck and striding pose of this horse may have been inspired by the massive bronze monument to Bartolommeo Colleoni by Andrea del Verrocchio (c.1435-88) which Dürer knew from his visits to Venice, where it was erected outside the church of SS Giovanni e Paolo in 1494 and still remains.'
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1971, BM, Albrecht Dürer, no. 179
2002/3 Dec-Mar, London, BM Dürer and his Legacy, no. 126
2014-15 Sept.- Jan: British Museum, 'Germany: Memories of a Nation'
2019-2020, 8 Nov-1 Mar, Denmark, Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark, Germany: Memories of a Nation
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number