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An image of Hercules at the crossroads by Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer

(Germany 24 May 1471 – 05 Apr 1528)

Hercules at the crossroads
Other titles:
Hercules choosing between Virtue and Vice
The Hercules
circa 1498
Media category
Materials used

31.8 x 22.0 cm image; 32.2 x 22.5 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed l.centre, [incised plate] "AD [artist's monogram]". Not dated.
Purchased 1938
Accession number
Temporary exhibitions gallery
Further information

The subject of this enigmatic engraving relates to a passage by the Greek writer Xenophon about the youthful Hercules deciding between Virtue and Pleasure. Dürer shows Pleasure lying naked with a satyr, about to be beaten by her opponent. Hercules wields a tree-trunk, ready to enter the fight. Dürer was inspired by Italian art for his representation of classical nudes in the landscape. The reclining nude is derived from an engraving by Mantegna while the muscular figure of Hercules is borrowed from a print by Pollaiuolo that Dürer would have seen during his first trip to Italy in c.1494-5.

Bibliography (2)

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 7 (illus.). This engraving appears with the title of `Combat of Virtue and Pleasure in the presence of Hercules'.

Nicholas Draffin, Piety and Paganism, Sydney, 1991, 4, 13.

Exhibition history (4)

Piety and Paganism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Jul 1991–29 Sep 1991

German Old Master Prints, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Mar 1998–16 Jun 1998

Old Europe: Prints & drawings from the collection 1500-1800, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jun 2006–06 Aug 2006

European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014