The subject 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 figure is derived from an engraving by Mantegna while the muscular figure of Hercules is borrowed from a print by Antonio del Pollaiuolo that Dürer probably saw during his first trip to Italy in 1494–95.
Hercules choosing between Virtue and Vice
ii of 2 states
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.
Not on display
Shown in 4 exhibitions
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