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Nemesis (the Great Fortune).
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Nemesis (the Great Fortune)., result 1 of 1

Item Details
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Nemesis (the Great Fortune).
Work Type
prints, engravings, works on paper
circa 1502
Image: 228mm (width), 333mm (height), Support: 228mm (width), 333mm (height)

A powerful, middle-aged female figure, nude and winged, is placed on a globe and moves suspended between the clouds, overlooking a broad valley landscape. The latter has been identified as the village of Klausen (Chiusa) in the Valle d'Isarco in the Tyrol, which lay on Albrecht Dürer's route of travel from Nuremberg to Venice, made some seven years previously. Its rendition reflects his mastery of aerial perspective, and the engraving itself is a technical tour de force.

The subject comes from the Latin poem Manto (Mantle) by the Italian humanist Poliziano, which Dürer would have encountered in the library of his learned friend Willibald Pirckheimer. The poem combines the goddesses of Revenge (Nemesis) and Fortune (Fortuna). The famous writer on artists, Giorgio Vasari, in turn believed that it represented 'Temperance, with magnificent wings, a golden cup and reins in her hands'. The reins signify restraint from temptation that humanity should exercise - and her dominance - while the goblet signifies her generosity and the wings are a familiar symbol of victory.

The figure is proportioned according to the canon of the famous classical authority Vitruvius, who was also a major influence on Leonardo da Vinci; proportion was little short of an obsession for Dürer. He intentionally made her heavier and not conventionally beautiful (note the ample belly and rump, which are traditionally given to Fortune), reflecting the fateful gravity of her domain; under her weight the clouds yield.

Copies of this print were frequently given as presents on Dürer's trip to the Netherlands in 1520-21.

Dr Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art November 2016

Collection: Art
Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1952
Accession Number
Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
Use of this image is in accordance with the Artstor Terms & Conditions
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