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Nemesis (The Great Fortune)

Nemesis or Fortune (Fortuna) is the classical goddess of fate. In Dürer’s depiction she is shown holding the cup of luck and a set of reins, which signify restraint from temptation. While the subject is allegorical, the print also refers to contemporary literature and history. Its subject is based on a 1482 poem by Angelo Poliziano. Dürer’s inclusion of an actual Swiss landscape—the town of Chiusa (Klausen) in South Tyrol (seen in mirror image)—suggests that the print was intended to memorialize the defeat of Emperor Maximilian I’s troops in the Swiss (Swabian) War of 1499. Perhaps the defeated Habsburgs found solace in the poem’s lines about the changing fortunes of war.

Albrecht Dürer
German, 1471–1528
Nemesis (The Great Fortune)
ca. 1502
Engraving on paper
Image/sheet: 13 x 9 1/16 in. (33.0 x 23.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 75.60.6