by Joshua Mehigan // Artwork by Kate Glasheen
“In Albertus Pictor’s fifteenth-century painting, a likely source for Bergman’s Seventh Seal, a knight stalls Death with a chess game. Death plays chess in “Der Tod,” also. Only he plays with you, and there is possibly less suspense over who wins, since Hollander has gone all the way and made Death and the knight one and the same person. Her Death is not simply a bad guy whom everyone hopes loses, but a shiny, hyper-refined hero. It’s an interesting identification. Though less traditional, there are many examples, from anonymous medieval painters to Gustave Doré and the Rider-Waite Tarot deck (1910).
Still others, including one of the authors of The Book of Revelation and Albrecht Dürer, at least go as far as putting Death on horseback. Dürer’s “Ritter, Tod, und Teufel” (1513) [“Knight, Death, and the Devil”] shows a heroic-looking knight riding unfazed by the separate figure of Death, who rides beside him, staring, clutching an hourglass, and unfazed by the horned devil behind him. Of course the knights of medieval Romance are in part also known for hacked limbs, beheadings, adventurous quests, etc. But the tales arising from the knightly code and ideal have never focused solely on that. And so Hollander’s Death, while not ‘light-hearted,’ nevertheless smiles—that is (presumably), the visor of his helmet appears to smile. Hollander’s Death is ‘respectful,’ will beat you ‘beautifully’ at the gentleman’s game of chess. Like Dürer’s knight, he is heroic, dashing, a seductive lover, and—even ‘tender’ with ‘the children.’ (Note the terrifying layer of intimacy or universality added by the “the”). As in many medieval and early modern European depictions, he is not only a chevalier but also chivalrous. Or chivalrous to a point.”
For full text and images, consider reading RQ in print, on a Sunday afternoon, sun streaming through your window, coffee in hand, and nary a phone alert within sight or in earshot… just fine words, fine design, and the opportunity to make a stitch in time // Print is dead. Long live print. //