The Horseman, the death and Devil, 1513

Engraving mm 244 x 188

Original burin, monogrammed and dated on plate; Meder 74 a/g; mm 244 x 188

Superb proof with intense tones impressed in the first variant, before the disappearance of the two scratches between the dry branches in the upper right-hand corner. Printed on paper without watermark, as reported by the scholar Meder for very early proofs of this subject. Complete with all the engraved parts and with a margin thread all around. A few imperceptible abrasions in the white area, top right, and reinforcement on the reverse, at the central fold, otherwise perfect preservation.

Rare in the first variant.

Between 1513 and 1514, the Master tackled three works of the same size, bound together, and executed by engraving, with which he reveals his philosophical conception of art, culture and religion. These are The Horseman, Death and the Devil, Melancholia and Saint Jerome in the Cell, considered to be his engraved masterpieces. The first to be engraved is the Cavaliere. It is superfluous to point out the formal quality of the engraving, which is a paragon of layout, the pinnacle of the German engraver's virtuosity. 

From an iconographic point of view, the horse, of Leonardesque origin but remodelled according to an original canon by Albrecht Dürer, is the most perfect one returned to us by the history of art. The horseman is none other than the portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a key figure of the Reformation that Albrecht Dürer restores to us with proud, decisive features that live up to the ideals he embodies. He is the moral centre of the entire composition and the personification of the medieval legend of the knight errant, an example of rectitude in the face of the temptations of earthly life.