DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Nemesis or Good Fortune

c. 1502
Engraving, 332 x 232 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

This engraving was created between 1501 and 1503 and was one of Dürer's main large format engravings. The female figure is derived from the poem Manto by the Italian poet and humanist Poliziano, which Dürer presumably became acquainted with when studying in the library of his humanist friend, Willibald Pirckheimer. The poem combines the goddesses of Revenge and Fate. The female shape is floating along above the clouds on a globe and with eagle wings, holding a goblet in her right hand and bridle in her left. She is the result of Dürer's studies of Vitruvius' proportions.

Copies of this print were frequently given as presents by Dürer during his trip to the Netherlands during 1520-21. Vasari describes it as "a nude figure floating in the clouds, representing Temperance, with magnificent wings, a golden cup and reins in her hands." The reins signify restraint from temptation that should be exercised by man; the sphere uncertainty. The figure is proportioned according to the canon of Vitruvius. The landscape below has been identified as the village of Klausen (Chiusa) in the Valle d'Isarco in the Tyrol, which lay on Dürer's route of travel to Venice.