One of my favorite things to write about, naturally, is works that I’ve been able to see in person. I think it makes such a difference in how you perceive art and architecture, and even as someone who studies art intensively I always find it makes such a huge difference in the emotional connection and response to a piece. On top of that, being able to see the technical details of creation always creates a vastly different interpretation when you stand face to face with a physical object as opposed to a screen.
Whilst many of my peers went to the beach or somewhere a tad warmer than Scranton, PA for spring break, I ventured north to good ol’ Salem, MA to explore the land of witches and colonialism with one of my closest friends. Personally, I found it to be money and time well spent. My friend and I are the definition of museum people–old souls if you will–and have always had an interest and fascination with all things spooky. Of course we went to the Art Gallery at the Satanic Temple. Are you kidding me? Of course we did. Now I could tell you that seeing Elvira’s autograph or sitting on Baphomet’s lap was the highlight of that day but I’d be lying. I turned the corner, and next to quite a few Dali and Degas paintings (which I knew were going to be there) was a bonafide original Albrecht Dürer print of Knight, Death, and the Devil. I was totally not expecting it to be there, but my jaw was probably on the floor.
Printmaking has always been so interesting to me, and on top of that I was looking at one of the masters face to face. Dürer’s ego aside, he really does deserve that title when you look at the amount of intricate detail he was able to force into a letter size sheet of paper. Some people like “Where’s Waldo?” or “iSpy”, but I think this is a much more entertaining game of hide and seek. The Knight may be front and center, but Death and the Devil are the clear stars of the show here.
The Devil hardly looks his most intimidating here, but I suppose if I saw a goat-headed man with hooves and a rat tail chasing me I’d be pretty intimidated. Dürer’s depiction of Death, though? Spooky and my absolute favorite in this piece. How has no one turned him into a horror monster yet? His decaying face and snake buddies are existing in this weird uncomfortable harmony, and the hourglass in his hands is just so ominous. I could totally see a horror movie where the main character can see him but no one else can, and he’s just standing there in the corner staring as the hourglass slowly runs out.
Even for this strong fighter, this person we associate with dignity and resilience, sin and death has come for him. If they can come for him, they can come for us all. This print so spookily wraps up the human experience of the looming following of the guilt of supposed sin and the eternal rest that follows along the side of our journey, somehow knowing more than we do. But hey, maybe this is really just a dude on a horse with some really weird friends and travel partners.
Header and Gallery Photos taken by yours truly!
Details and Scan of “Knight, Death, and the Devil” : https://www.smb.museum/