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Friday, March 20, 2015

And speaking of knights . . .


Invidia autem diaboli mors introivit in orbem terrarum. --Sapientia 2: 24 (Vulgate version)

"Because of (1) the Devil's (2) Envy, (3) Death entered the world." The Book of Wisdom -- ascribed to King Solomon though written in Greek -- is a late text included in the LXX Bible, then accepted by the Catholic Church in its definitive canon, while rejected by Judaism and Protestantism. The cited line is echoed in the New Testament, e.g. James 1: 15, but especially in Paul's theology as a whole. The concept would enjoy a great success in Christian culture, see also Dante, Inferno 1: 110-111, not to speak of Milton.

Albrecht Dürer's super-famous engraving Knight, Death, and the Devil seems to be based on that very Wisdom line. Personage 2 is here identified with Envy, rather than Time and/or Death, because of the snakes that 'embellish' his frightening head, which -- usually as the 'hairstyle' of the Furies -- are a typical Renaissance symbol of envy, hate, war. Death (3) comes as a consequence. The link between Time and sin is valid insofar as Virtue (4) aims at eternity.

Dürer conveyed all this by means of a gorgeous work of art in which the beauty of details goes along with a geometrical structure that is, at the same time, firm and dynamic.