Work of Art

 

Title: Knight, Death and Devil

Artist: Albrecht Dürer

Completion Date: 1513

Style: Northern Renaissance

Genre: Allegorical Painting

Technique: Engraving

Gallery: Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Albrecht Dürer’s monumental 1513 engraving Ritter, Tod und Teufel (Knight, Death and Devil) stands as an extraordinary achievement of Northern Renaissance art. Dürer was one of Germany’s greatest artists and his works shaped and molded völkisch identity. Frequently deploying medievalist symbolism, Dürer’s engravings convey multiple messages that appear as one gazes further into the depicted scenes. Ritter, Tod und Teufel is internationally recognizable and people across the world possess prints of this work. Gothic, twilit and utterly compelling, it commands rapt attention and admiration. The figure of the noble knight riding with Death echoes in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and various Danse Macabre murals adorning Europe’s cathedrals. What makes Dürer’s engraving so remarkable is its degree of detail and metaphorical complexity thoughout the work.

At first glance, the viewer observes a proud knight clad in armor riding through a Teutonic wilderness. A walled citadel stands in the upper far background but our ritter rides through a rocky cleft far removed from feudal courts. His loyal spaniel darts forward besides him with ears back and alarmed eyes. Beside him rides Death clutching an hourglass while worms squirm out of his rotting death’s head. At once a frightening image of mortality and decay, he urges the knight on to his ultimate fate. Death rides with all of us but like our knight, we are so often oblivious to his presence. Sand is trickling through our hourglass every second and we ought to fully realized our own mortality. Likewise, our knight is accompanied by the Devil in grotesque bestial form. The rebelling angel boasts a boar’s snout and a bull’s horn while clutching a halberd. Following hotly on our heels, Satan desires to consume our souls in his hateful fire. With Death and Devil pursuing us, we must safeguard our souls against these dangers.

Deeply allegorical, Dürer’s work brilliantly accomplishes its goal of educating and inspiring the viewer. Dürer proved a master engraver and his fine lines provided shadowing and illustrative complexity to this remarkable work. Ritter Tod, und Teufel represents medieval Teutonic culture through a distinct artistic medium. In 1915, Dr. Hans F.K. Günther penned a rightist, nationalist tract titled Ritter, Tod und Teufel: Der Heldische Gedanke, (Knight, Death and Devil: The Heroic Idea). In this work, Günther used Dürer’s deeply Germanic imagery as a visual example of positive Germanic racial characteristics. The noble Aryan knight riding forwards to his ultimate fate served as a metaphor for the nation’s racial and cultural struggle for elite purity. In our decadent age of racial panmixia and democratic confusion, Western youth ought to look back to Dürer’s engraving. Within its delicate lines, they will find inspiration borne from our medieval past and gain courage and strength for Europe’s future.

Peter Sayles

Bangor, Maine (2012)

About Peter Sayles

Peter Sayles ist eine junge rechtsextremistischem und glühender New Englander