knight death and the devil explained
The rider’s visor is lifted, displaying a shaven face that is fixed in a stoical expression, while an animal pelt is tied below the tip of his lance. A medium-sized and shaggy-coated hound, its ears dropped and rearward-facing, runs between the mounted figures of death and the knight while a lizard crawls in the opposite direction of the procession amidst the falling hooves.
While DГјrer, who studied human anatomy alongside other scientific disciplines, may have been fascinated by skulls for aesthetic reasons he would have been aware of their symbolic power in the Holy Roman Empire and throughout the rest of Europe. Skulls, inanimate and revealed via the process of decay, are emblematic of human mortality and were often depicted on gravestones as a reminder to the living that their days on earth are numbered.
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.
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.
Named “Ritter, Tod, und Teufel” (I) and “Ritter, Tod und Teufel” (II), the first shows the Argentine author’s admiration for the knight’s bravery in the face of death and damnation, while the second reveals he can see himself in that very position.
Snake-shrouded Death and the goat-faced Devil speak for themselves. But the work is loaded with other symbols. The knight’s shining armor is believed to signify his solid Christian faith. The hourglass in Death’s hand represents man’s mortality. The foxtail speared on the knight’s lance and kept behind him stands for lies, while the dog running alongside represents veracity and loyalty. The scurrying lizard hints at coming danger. The skull near the bottom may mean death is ahead.
Western printmaking began in the early part of the fifteenth century. Engraving and woodcutting were the two most commonly used mediums for printing. However, engraving with a burin gave the artist a certain degree more of sophistication and expressive detail that was harder to mimic on a woodblock, whose porous surface is not as pliant as a copper plate. Art Historian, Charles Talbot notes that the intaglio process of engraving, requires considerably more time and effort in application. Furthermore, ‘it took considerably more pressure in the press to draw the ink from the incised lines than was needed to print a wood-block’ (Talbot 1971, p.14). One of the other main benefits of engraving were the numerous impressions that could be made from one plate. While each impression might have a slight degree of variation from the next one, hundreds of impressions were made from Dürer’s engraved plates and retained the highest level of quality.
Henrich Wölfflin, The Art of Albrecht Dürer, London 1971.
An armoured knight, accompanied by his dog, rides through a narrow gorge flanked by a goat-headed devil and the figure of death riding a pale horse. Death’s rotting corpse holds an hourglass, a reminder of the shortness of life. The rider moves through the scene looking away from the creatures lurking around him, and appears almost contemptuous of the threats, and is thus often seen as symbol of courage;  the knight’s armor, the horse which towers in size over the beasts, the oak leaves and the fortress on the mountaintop are symbolic of the resilience of faith, while the knight’s plight may represent Christians’ earthly journey towards the Kingdom of Heaven. 
Death, the Devil, and the landscape are all rendered in a bleakly northern manner. The surrounding characters are threatening to the knight, who is seemingly protected by the literal and figurative armor of his faith. It is believed by some art historians to be linked with publications of the Dutch humanist and theologian Erasmus’s Enchiridion militis Christiani (Handbook of a Christian soldier).  The engraving draws from Psalm 23; “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”.  Knight, Death and the Devil is dated and signed by the artist; the bottom left of the tablet is scribed “S. (=Salus/in the year of grace) 1513.”