ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
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ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)

Nemesis

Details
ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
Nemesis
engraving, circa 1501, on laid paper, watermark High Crown (Meder 20), a brilliant Meder IIa impression, printing very sharply and with intense contrasts, showing traces of burr on the scratch below the bridge and elsewhere, with small margins, in very good condition
Plate 330 x 229 mm., Sheet 336 x 235 mm.
Provenance
With Pace Editions, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
Bartsch 77; Meder, Hollstein 72; Schoch Mende Scherbaum 33
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution, with wings and standing on a ball, glides majestically over an alpine landscape, which - depicted in tiny detail - lies far underneath. In her hands she holds a bridle and a cup, her instruments to punish and restrain the proud and reward the just. As Panofsky's iconological studies have demonstrated, these attributes can only have been derived from the poem Manto by the Tuscan poet Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494). It may have been through his friend, the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer that Dürer, who did not read Latin himself, knew this particular literary source. According to Justi (1902), Dürer followed Vitruvius's treatise when defining her proportions, and she represents one the earliest examples of the artist's interest in a classical canon of forms, a human form tempered and contained rather than passionately agitated.
The engraving of Nemesis has been described as a humanist, secular version of his Apocalypse prints. Indeed, in true Renaissance spirit, Dürer found similar images for two seemingly opposing concepts, for Christian revelation and Greek mythology. In both instances, in the woodcuts of the Apocalypse as well as in the present engraving, the image is divided into two spheres: an earthly realm, and a celestial one, where angels and demons fight and goddesses rule.
That to Dürer the goddess of fate was not just a literary figure can be seen from his own writings. In the journal he kept during his journey to the Netherlands in 1520-21, Dürer referred to unforeseeable events as the workings of 'Fortuna'. It is a remarkably secular, modern notion to think of the course of events being determined not by God, but by such an unaccountable agent.
The mountain landscape, one of the few recognisable locations in Dürer's printed oeuvre, has been identified as a view of the village of Klausen (Chiusa) in the Eisack valley in the Tyrol, which he would have seen in 1494 on his route across the Alps to Venice.
The artist's astounding mastery of the engraving technique becomes apparent in brilliant impressions such as the present one, and is particularly evident in the depiction of the human figure, the exceptionally detailed landscape, the texture of the feathers, and in the virtuoso handling of light and shade, for example on the bridle, as it twists and turns in space.

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