An image of Hercules at the crossroads

Albrecht Dürer

(Germany 24 May 1471 – 05 Apr 1528)

Hercules at the crossroads

Other titles:
Hercules choosing between Virtue and Vice, The Hercules
Location
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.

Year
circa 1498
Media
Print
Medium
engraving
Dimensions
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.
Credit
Purchased 1938
Accession number
8503