Albrecht Dürer, ‘Knight, Death and the Devil (B. 98; M., Holl. 74; S.M.S. 69)’, 1513, Christie's Old Masters

Engraving, 1513, without watermark, a superb Meder a-b impression, printing with exceptional clarity and great contrasts, with thread margins, the platemark accentuated with some touches of pen and ink, generally in very good condition.

A knight in armor on his magnificent charger makes his way through a rocky gorge. It is a hostile environment with barren, broken trees, thorny shrubs and a human skull placed on a tree stump, as if in warning. Two figures stand by the wayside, as if emerging from the rocks; King Death with snakes winding through his crown, astride an old mare, holding an hourglass; and a monstrous devil standing on his hoofs, holding a pike.

Countless attempts have been made to identify the central figure which Dürer simply referred to as der Reuther ('the rider'). Suggestions have included emperor, pope, heretic, Germanic hero and local patrician. None of the potential candidates, either historical or mythological, have been substantiated. The knight as robber baron - a genuine threat in the days of Dürer - is also lacking visual evidence. The precursors of Dürer's rider are the two great equestrian statues of the Italian 15th century, Donatello's Gattamelata in Padua and Verrocchio's Colleoni in Venice, both of which Dürer had seen, and - much closer to home - the Rider of Bamberg Cathedral. Whatever his true identity - if 'identity' he has - Dürer's rider is clearly cast in the heroic mould, a model of courage and moral strength, the Christian Knight, who does not fear Death or the Devil.

The present impression compares well to the Cracherode impression in the British Museum.

Princes of Liechtenstein (by repute, without mark and not in Lugt).

Richard H. Zinser (circa 1883-1983), Forest Hills, New York (not in Lugt).

About Albrecht Dürer

Considered one of the foremost artists of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer’s extensive work in printmaking transformed the categorization of the medium from craft to fine art. Often depicting religious subjects, Dürer’s woodcuts and engravings demonstrated unprecedented technical skill, tonal variation, and compositional sophistication. Dürer theorized extensively on linear perspective and anatomical proportion, concerns that were articulated in a vast body of written work as well as in his paintings and prints. Dürer’s skill earned him the role of court artist for Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, under whom he created a number of paintings and altarpieces. Dürer’s series of self-portraits, created throughout his career, represent some of his most iconic works.

German, 1471-1528, Nuremberg, Germany, based in Nuremberg, Germany