Knight in the Grasp of The Devil [1516]

Urs Graf is probably the greatest artist forgotten by history. Born in 1485, in the Swiss town Solothurn, Graf's father was a goldsmith but his son made his name as a maker of woodcuts for the burgeoning trade in books.

Active from around 1507, Graf became a citizen of Basel in 1512 and joined the city's goldsmith's guild. He married but the life of a bourgeois artisan soon lost its lustre. Graf was arrested on several occasions for beating his wife and consorting with harlots but it was an accusation of murder that caused him to flee the city. History does not record his guilt or innocence but Graf was back in Basel by 1518, where he resumed his former career, but ten years later his name disappears from the record. Graf's wife remarried in 1528 and his last autographed work is dated 1529.

What happened to Graf after 1529 is something of a mystery but he may have died in battle. Graf is known to have taken service with the mercenary pike squares for which the Swiss were famous and it was his experiences as a reislaufer that inspired his most important work. His drawings and sketches are a vital source of information about the life of a 16th Century soldier of fortune, whilst his grotesque style has a satirical edge that echoes the much later work of Hogarth and Goya.