what was knight death and the devil etched in
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.
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.
A visual feast and technical marvel, Albrecht Dürer’s Knight, Death, and the Devil caused a sensation in 16th century Europe and still inspires awe today. But do you know the secrets hidden in its scratches?
Although the work is categorized as a “large print” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Knight, Death, and the Devil measures in at just 9.6 by 7.5 inches.
Death, riding a horse and flanking the mounted knight, turns his head towards the rider and holds an hourglass in his left hand. His skull is visible beneath the decomposing flesh of his face, still displaying a beard, while a snake winds its way through the spikes of his crown and another coils around his shoulders. The hourglass, also featured in DГјrer’s Melancholia I and Young Couple Threatened by Death, may represent the amount of time the knight has left on earth.
The engraving, created during a period in the German artist’s career when his main focus was on copper plate printmaking, is considered by some art historians to belong to a trilogy known as the Master Engravings and contains similar themes to those found in some of his other creations.
Dürer was idealised from the 1920s by ideologues within the Nazi party as “the most German of German artists”. At a 1927 Nazi rally the philosopher, Nazi theorist and ideologue, and later convicted war criminal Alfred Rosenberg compared the assembled stormtroopers to the warrior in Knight, Death and the Devil, exclaiming that “in everything that you do, remember that for the National Socialists only one thing counts: to cry out to the world: And even if the world is full of devils, we must win anyway!”  In 1933, the mayor of Nuremberg presented Hitler with an original print of Knight, Death and the Devil,  and described Hitler as the “knight without fear or blame, who as the Führer of the new German Reich, once again carried and multiplied the fame of the old imperial city of Nuremberg to the whole world.” 
The work was mentioned by Giorgio Vasari as one of “several sheets of such excellence that nothing finer can be achieved”.  It was widely copied and had a large influence on later German writers. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche referenced the work in his work on dramatic theory The Birth of Tragedy (1872) to exemplify pessimism, while it was later idealised in the 20th century by the Nazis as representing the racially pure Aryan, and was sometimes used in their propaganda imagery. 
Created in a Gothic style, the landscape is Nordic and bleak and this is believed to be partly due to Durer’s familiarity with Desiderius Erasmus’s ‘Enchiridion militis Christiani’ which translates as the ‘Handbook of a Christian soldier’.
Knight Death and the Devil