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Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and the Devil (B. 98; M., Holl. 74; S.M.S. 69), engraving, 1513. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a fine and early Meder a/b impression, printing with great contrast and clarity, trimmed to the platemark, with thread margins in places, occasionally very narrowly remargined and with tiny touches of pen and ink at the extreme sheet edge, remains of old paper tape along the sheet edges verso, a tiny thin spot below, otherwise in excellent condition - P., S. 247 x 190 mm. Est. £100,000 - £150,000. Sold £241,250

Provenance: R. H. Saklikower (not in Lugt); Karl & Faber, Munich, 2 May 1960, lot 87 (DM 14.000).

Notes: With the completion of the Life of the Virgin and the publication of the four woodcut books in 1511, Dürer had changed the medium and transformed the woodcut from a means of illustration to an art form. In the following year, his attention turned once more to engraving, determined to take this technique also to its limits. He began on a small format by completing his series of the Engraved Passion with a few densely worked plates, characterised by intense chiaroscuro effects and a tonal quality never attempted before in an engraving. In 1513 then, he launched into the creation of his most ambitious works in any medium, the three 'Meisterstiche': Knight, Death and the Devil, Saint Jerome in his Study (see the following lot), and Melencolia I.

Whether these three engravings were initially conceived as a series remains unclear, yet they are united by a similar format, a similar date of execution (1513 and 1514) and the concentration on a single figure in a symbolically charged environment. As an overarching theme, the three figures embody three alternative modes of a virtuous life: that of the knight, the scholar and the artist.

Dürer himself referred to Knight, Death and the Devil, as it is known today, simply as 'the rider', thereby leaving room for much speculation, with the interpretations of the figure of the knight ranging from emperor to pope to heretic and robber baron. There can be little doubt, however, that his knight is a a heroic figure, who fears neither death nor the devil. Today it is the generally accepted view that he represents the ideal of the Christian Knight or 'miles christianus', a concept which stems from the Epistles of Paul, but was revived in Dürer's times by Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1503.

In fine and early impressions, such as the present one, it becomes clear that, as much as a depiction of a spiritual concept, Knight, Death and the Devil is also a formal endeavour. In this print, Dürer developed a whole new vocabulary of graphic means, and with a staggering variety of different lines described the glistening hair of horse, the shaggy fur of the dog, the shining armour, the dull rocks, the spiky bushes, the distant landscape, and most subtle effects of the cold light of winter on a multitude of surfaces and textures. He tried - and arguably succeeded - to depict with mere black lines on paper what had previously only been attempted with the brush and oil paint.
The full extent of Dürer's ambition becomes apparent when one considers the direct precusors to Dürer's rider: Donatello's Gattamelata in Padua and Verrocchio's Colleoni in Venice, the two great equestrian statues of the 15th century, both of which Dürer had seen on his journeys to Italy. With this engraving, he was not just competing with painting, but with sculpture - and with two of the most revered artists of the Italian renaissance.

It is the complexity and intellectual depth of the subject, the unrivalled technical mastery with which Dürer executed it, and the sheer ambition and confidence that drove him, which make Death, Knight and the Devil one of the most impressive and desirable works in the print medium.

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Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in his Study (B. 60; M., Holl. 59; S.M.S. 70), engraving, 1514. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a fine, warm and atmospheric Meder a/b impression, the dark vertical bands evident in the upper part of the subject, trimmed to the subject, very narrowly remargined, with touches of pen and ink in places at the extreme sheet edge, two short un-inked hairlines, one just below the bench, the other in the arch to the right of the window, a tiny surface abrasion just below the central window arch, an unobtrusive horizontal crease on the reverse probably inherent in the paper (not visible recto), remains of old paper tape along the sheet edges verso, with a few small thin spots at the lower edge, generally in very good condition - P., S. 243 x 186 mm. Est. £70,000 - £100,000. Sold £79,250

Notes: Saint Jerome was one of the fathers of the Church and author of the Vulgate - the early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin. By Dürer's time he had, as a scholar and Latinist, become an iconic figure for the humanists. Here he is immediately identifiable by his attributes - the cardinal's hat and the lion - as he sits writing at his desk in a small chamber. It is a friendly room where one might feel welcome, were it not for the lion and a sleeping dog guarding the entrance, and the wooden bench turned away from us as if to shield the saint from any intrusion.

Dated 1514, Saint Jerome in his Study was engraved one year after Knight, Death and the Devil (see previous lot), and like the earlier print, it is full of reminders of death: the human skull on the window ledge, the crucifix on the desk, the candle and the hour glass, and the fly whisk can be read as a reference to the devil. Yet while the knight is physically confronted with death and the devil, Saint Jerome comtemplates them in the quiet and warmth of his study.

It is the bright sunlight (still out-shone by the saint's halo) falling through the windows and filling the room with warmth, described by Dürer with dazzling virtuosity, which is the formal theme of this print, and which make it one of the most charming and best-loved of all of Dürer's engravings.

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Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Adam and Eve (B., Meder, Holl. 1; Schoch, Mende and Scherbaum 39), engraving, 1514. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

with part of a Small Jug watermark (M. 158, dated circa 1525), Meder III, the watermark suggesting a printing date between Meder a and b, brownish and warm, printing clearly and with good contrasts, the finest shading mainly on Eve beginning to wear, trimmed to or just inside the borderline, in excellent condition - S. 249 x 189 mm. Est. £30,000 - £50,000

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Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen, from: The Apocalypse (B. 64; M., Holl. 167; S.M.S. 115), woodcut, circa 1497-98. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a very good though slightly uneven impression, printing particularly well at the upper right, slightly dry towards the centre and lower left, from the Latin text edition of 1511, with thread margins or trimmed to the borderline, with a short tear and small paper loss at the lower right corner, another small loss at the right edge (just touching the horse's head), a worm-hole at the lower left sheet edge, all with old inked-in repairs, some short tears and nicks at the sheet edges, the title inscribed in pen and ink verso in an old French hand - B., S. 395 x 280 mm. Est. £25,000 - £35,000

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Albrecht Dürer, The Dream of the Doctor (B. 76; M., Holl. 70; S.M.S. 18), engraving, circa 1498. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a Meder d/e impression, slightly smudged at upper right, trimmed to or just inside the borderline, a tiny repair in the cloth above the woman's left thigh, a small made-up area at the lower edge to the right of the monogram, traces of old adhesive on the reverse where previously mounted - S. 185 x 117 mm. Est. £7,000 - £10,000. Sold £15,000

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Albrecht Dürer, Pilate washing his Hands, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M., Holl. 11; S.M.S. 53), engraving, 1512. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a good Meder b impression, trimmed on the platemark, some very minor staining at the upper right sheet corner where laid onto an album sheet, very minor foxing mostly visible verso; with Christ before Caiaphas (B., M., Holl. 6; S.M.S. 48) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, a good Meder b impression, trimmed on the platemark, with thread margins in places, in good condition; and Saints Peter and John at the Gate of the Temple (B., M., Holl. 18; S.M.S. 60) from the same series, engraving, 1513, without watermark, Meder b, trimmed to or on the platemark, two soft, unobtrusive horizontal creases, otherwise in good condition; all laid onto album sheets at the upper corners - P., S. 117 x 74 mm. (and similar) (3). Est. £6,000 - £8,000. Sold £6,875

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Albrecht Dürer, Christ Carrying the Cross, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M., Holl. 12; S.M.S. 54), engraving, 1512. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a good Meder b impression, trimmed to the subject, several foxmarks mainly visible in the light areas, otherwise in good condition; with Christ crowned with Thorns (B., M., Holl. 9; S.M.S. 51) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, a good Meder b impression, trimmed on the platemark, an abrasion along the upper right sheet edge just touching the subject, otherwise in good condition; and The Flagellation (B., M., Holl., 8; S.M.S. 50) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, a good Meder c/d impression, trimmed to or on the platemark, a small backed area at the lower sheet edges, generally in good condition; all laid onto album sheets at upper corners - P., S. 117 x 74 mm. (and similar) (3). Est. £6,000 - £8,000. Sold £8,125

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Albrecht Dürer, The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seal, from: The Apocalypse (B. 65; M., Holl. 168; S.M.S. 116), woodcut, circa 1497/98. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

watermark Tower with Crown and Flower (M. 259), a very good impression from the Latin text edition of 1511, trimmed to or just outside the borderline, fractionally into the borderline at lower left, in very good condition - S. 390 x 281 mm. Est. £6,000 - £8,000. Sold £9,375

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Albrecht Dürer, The Four Avenging Angels, from: The Apocalypse (B. 69; M., Holl. 171; S.M.S. 119), woodcut, circa 1496/98. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a very good impression from the Latin text edition of 1511, trimmed on the borderline, circa 25 mm. of the left borderline filled in with pen and brown ink where printed thinly, a small skilfully backed area at the left sheet edge, one or two pinpoint foxmarks, paper tape along the right and left sheet edges verso, remains of cloth and paper hinges in places verso, generally in very good condition - S. 391 x 280 mm. Est. £6,000 - £8,000. Sold £9,375

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Albrecht Dürer, Christ on the Cross, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M., Holl. 13; S.M.S. 55), engraving, 1511. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, Meder d/e, trimmed to or just outside the subject, stained and foxed, some minor creases, thinly backed; with Christ before Pilate (B., M., Holl. 7; S.M.S. 49) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, Meder c, trimmed to or just outside the platemark, foxed, a 2 mm. tear at the right sheet edge, the outer corner tips made up, the sheet thinly backed; and Ecce Homo (B., M., Holl. 10; S.M.S. 52) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, a good impression, trimmed to or just inside the subject, a repaired paper loss in the blank sky above, foxing, the sheet partially backed; all laid onto album sheets at upper sheet corners - P., S. 118 x 75 mm. (and similar) (3). Est. £6,000 - £8,000. Sold £5,250

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Albrecht Dürer, The Harrowing of Hell, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M. Holl. 16; S.M.S. 58), engraving, 1512. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a good Meder a impression, trimmed on or just inside the platemark, the tip of the lower left corner creased and a little frayed, generally in good condition; with The Resurrection (B., M., Holl. 17; S.M.S. 59) from the same series, engraving, 1512, watermark fragment High Crown, a very good Meder c impression, trimmed to the subject, an unobtrusive, vertical repaired paper split on Christ's chest, a small repaired paper loss in the tree at the right sheet edge, a 3 mm. tear at the right sheet edge, the tip of the lower right sheet corner made up, a horizontal and vertical central crease, flattened and mostly visible verso; and Christ on the Mount of Olives (B., M., Holl. 4; S.M.S. 46) from the same series, engraving, 1508, without watermark, a good Meder d impression, trimmed on or just outside the platemark, a small, backed repair on Saint Peter's chest, a 2 mm. repaired tear through his lower legs, some staining mainly in the lower part of the sheet; all laid onto album sheets at the upper corners - P., S. 115 x 74 mm. (and similar) (3). Est. £4,000 - £6,000. Sold £5,250

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Albrecht Dürer, The Virgin and Child seated by a Tree (B. 35; M., Holl. 34; S.M.S. 67), engraving, 1513. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a good Meder b/c impression, trimmed to the platemark above, with thread margins elsewhere, the upper right corner creased and with a small made-up loss at the outer tip, where the sheet is stuck to an album sheet, some very minor foxing mainly visible verso, otherwise in good condition - P., S. 118 x 76 mm. Est. £4,000 - £6,000. Sold £6,875

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Albrecht Dürer, The Betrayal of Christ, from: The Engraved Passion (B., M. Holl. 5; S.M.S. 47), engraving, 1508. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, Meder f, trimmed to or just inside the platemark, generally in good condition; with The Man of Sorrows standing by the Column (B., M., Holl. 3; S.M.S. 45) from the same series, engraving, 1509, without watermark, Meder c/d, a slipped impression, with thread margins, small paper loss at the lower left margin just touching the platemark; The Deposition (B., M., Holl. 15; S.M.S. 57) from the same series, engraving, 1512, without watermark, Meder e, with thread margins, trimmed to the platemark at lower left; and Heinrich Aldegrever after Georg Pencz, The Four Evangelists (B., Holl. 57-60), the complete set of four engravings, 1539, without watermarks, good impressions, trimmed to the subjects, some very minor foxing mainly at the sheet edges, otherwise in good condition; all prints laid onto album sheets at the upper corners - P., S. 118 x 75 mm. (and similar) (Dürer) - S. 121 x 78 mm. (Aldegrever) (7). Est. £4,000 - £6,000. Sold £4,500

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Albrecht Dürer, The Virgin with the Swaddled Child (B. 38; M., Holl. 40; S.M.S. 91), engraving, 1520. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

watermark Small High Crown with pendant City Gate (cf. M. 45, dated circa 1550), a good, warm but slightly later impression, between Meder b and c, trimmed on or just inside the platemark, fractionally into the subject above, with thread margins in places, in very good condition - S. 141 x 96 mm. Est. £3,000 - £5,000. Sold £8,125

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Albrecht Dürer, The Last Supper, from: The Large Passion (B. 5; M., Holl. 114; S.M.S. 155), woodcut, 1510,. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010

without watermark, a very good impression from the Latin text edition of 1511, trimmed to or on the borderline, some minor foxing, mainly toward the sheet edges, paper hinges in places at the sheet edges verso where previously laid down, otherwise in very good condition - S. 397 x 285 mm. Est. £3,000 - £4,000. Sold £3,250

Christie's. Old Master, Modern & Contemporary Prints. 31 March 2010. London, King Street www.christies.com