bearded man on horseback, with a long straight sword at his waist; horse wears bunch of feathers at the top of its harness between its ears; man carrying halberd running behind; running man has cluster of feathers on his headdress; trees in landscape with castle at center background; small dog in center foreground

Knight on Horseback and the Lansquenet, c. 1496-1497

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Gift of funds from Nivin MacMillanexpand_more  2016.108.2

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2016 Accession Highlight

This woodcut of a knight on horseback accompanied by a foot soldier belongs to the early part of Albrecht Dürer’s career when, while still in his twenties, he elevated the craft of woodcut to a fine art.

The image is not connected to any specific text or legend. Rather, it conjures up colorful figures that one might have encountered on a road beyond the protective walls of a German city in the late 1400s. The horse leaps forward with both forelegs off the ground. It clenches the bit and has a fiery expression. The equally intent rider urges on his companion with a wave of his arm. The group traverses a winding road in a river valley dotted with fortified towns, monasteries, or castles. Nature and civilization are in balance. It is autumn: the leftmost tree is heavy with fruit, and some of the others have already lost their leaves. The hurried travelers pass us by, but we will remain to enjoy the lovely view.
This is a fine example of Dürer’s groundbreaking woodcuts of the 1490s. The unbelievably intricate network of lines presents form, light, and space with a lithe sense of movement equal to the highest achievements of the draftsman’s art. The engaging, open-ended image exemplifies the complex new artistry that Dürer brought to the medium.

bearded man on horseback, with a long straight sword at his waist; horse wears bunch of feathers at the top of its harness between its ears; man carrying halberd running behind; running man has cluster of feathers on his headdress; trees in landscape with castle at center background; small dog in center foreground