Knight, Death and the Devil

Knight, Death and the Devil
Artist Albrecht Dürer
Year 1513
Medium Copper engraving
Location Multiple museum collections
Dimensions 9.6 in × 7.5 in
24.5 cm × 19.1 cm
Famous Paintings by Albrecht Dürer
Young Hare
Adam and Eve
Praying Hands
Knight, Death and the Devil
Self-Portrait of Albrecht Dürer
Melencolia I
Adoration of the Trinity

Knight, Death and the Devil was completed in 1513 A.D., by Albrecht Dürer. The engraving was created during the artist’s Nuremberg period, when he served the Emperor Maximilian and lived in Nuremberg, devoting himself to engraving work. Unlike many works of the time, it was not created as a commission.


The main focus of the work is a knight in armor mounted on a horse. The knight wears a sword and a long lance wrapped with a fox’s tail over his shoulder. He is accompanied by a dog. In the mid-ground a skeletal figure lurks on a pale horse. He wears a spiky crown and a snake around his neck and holds up an hourglass. Trailing the knight is an anthropomorphic goat-like figure. The background is a tangle of dead trees. Far off in the distance we see a walled city. In the bottom left foreground is a skull and a plaque bearing the monogram of the artist and the date, 1513.


The work is a 9.6 inch by 7.5 inch black and white illustration created with a copper engraving technique. The artist etched the design in reverse/negative onto a sheet of copper and then used the plate to transfer the work with ink onto paper. Works produced by this method, are referred to as the Old Master prints.


Experts speculate that it was meant to illustrate a principle from the theologian Erasmus’s work on the virtues of a Christian Knight. The knight is an “everyman” devoted to living a good Christian life. He ignores both the distractions of the devil behind him and the worries of his own mortality, symbolized by death with his hourglass. He has loyalty by his side (the dog), and although he passes through a perilous landscape, the fair city awaits him.

Knight, Death and the Devil and its accompanying works, St. Jerome in his Study and Melancolia are some of the highest quality Old Master prints ever produced. With them Albrecht Dürer gained his place in history as the master of Old Master print engraving.

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