Archive for February, 2010

Analysis: Dürer’s “Knight, Death, and the Devil”

February 27, 2010

PluribusOne™ Consulting, LLC has completed its analysis of a third engraving by the leading Northern Renaissance artist: Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).  Please use this blog’s search feature to locate the other analyses and related Image Files. Again, with “Knight, Death, and the Devil” (see Image File #15) we have discovered that neither the trained historians nor the amateur analysts have understood the message and meaning of this work. Titled, simply, “The Reuter” (1513) by the artist, the image later acquired its present and long-recognized title: “Knight, Death, and the Devil,” a title that is misguided and misleading with respect to the artist’s intention. 

The interpretation errors are many. We will focus on correcting the misunderstanding of two primary elements: Death and the Devil, and address the others in our future publication of the whole analysis. 

First correction: the “Knight” has been seen as “riding past ‘Death’;” however, the legs and hooves of the horses show that the two mounted figures are riding together as companions. “Death” is wearing a crown with snakes encircling his head and neck, and he holds an hourglass. This grotesque figure is a symbol that integrates various conceptions surrounding the first dimension of Time (see our post: “Multidimensionality and ‘Turbulence Theory’”), conceptions that include: Saturn with its astrological meaning and its crown of rings, Satan/the Adversary, the Devil, and Father Time. Christian doctrine holds that Satan is “the ruler of this world,” but the scientific perspective, using Noetitek™,  is that Time is a ruler; everything in the material world is subject to Time, to entropy—decline, decay, and death. In that sense, as mortals, Death is always our companion. 

The obvious question now is: “If the other rider is both ‘Death’ and ‘the Devil’ then what is the creature positioned behind them?”—which brings us to the second correction. This spear-wielding figure, referred to by art historians as the Devil in the form of a goat or pig, cannot be identified with any particular biological entity, and that is because it is a mythological creature, a war god. To some degree, it fits with a goat-like representation of Baphomet drawn by Eliphas Lévi in the 1800’s (see Image File #16), a deity with horns and wings associated with the Knights Templar, yet Dürer’s creature’s bilateral horn configuration is more like that of a ram, but with the addition of a crescent-shaped horn protruding upward and forward from the skull. At least one species of ram was used to depict certain Egyptian military gods such as Banebtetet (spelled here as pronounced, for easy comparison to Baphomet). Dürer’s rendition of a pagan war god may be unique—or, more likely, a more accurate depiction of Baphomet than the Eliphas Lévi version three centuries later—but it is clearly intended to show that the knight has been urged or compelled by some bellicose force to venture forth for the purpose of engaging in mortal combat. 

The correct interpretation of other elements of the painting, such as the skull upturned on its face and the lizard scurrying in the opposite direction, reveal the exact nature of the knight’s mission, as well as his identity and fate.