Undoubtedly a meditation on lust and death, this engraving remains one of the most enigmatic of all of Dürer's prints. Who are these women? Witches, whores or goddesses? Are they allegories of the Four Seasons or the Four Temperaments? The interpretations are manifold and none are entirely convincing. The devil and the flames rushing up the staircase support the traditional reading of the women as witches. A near contemporary copy by Nicoletto da Modena identifies the subject as the Judgment of Paris. If this were the case the women would be Juno, Minerva, Venus and Discordia. But whose skull is lying on the floor? Why do they stand on different levels of the room? What are they doing with their hands, out of sight? And, most perplexingly, what is the significance of the ball hanging from the ceiling and what does the inscription OHG stand for? The mysterious ball also bears the date 1497, the earliest to appear on any of Dürer's prints.
Whatever the subject may be, artistically the depiction of large female nudes was new and daring in northern art, and perhaps Dürer was simply seeking an allegorical, mythological or literary justification for what was essentially a celebration of the female form.