- Museum number
Two standing female allegorical figures; one, nude, holding a pair of scales in which a feather outweighs two clasped hands (a symbol of fidelity), the woman at right in fashionable dress holds a harness (?)
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
- 1514 (circa)
Height: 129 millimetres
Width: 159 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Butts, 2006, no.A92
LITERATURE: Hausmann, Naumann's Archiv, p. 39, no. 113; Hausmann, p. 110, no. 95; EH Guide, 1928, p. 35, no. 313; Stadler, Kulmbach, p. 103, no. 4, repr. (for further literature); Winkler, K&S, p. 56; no. 28, repr.; H. Landolt, Basel Jahresberichte, 1962, pp. 33f, repr.; Winkler, K&S, p. 56, no. 28, repr.; BM Dürer and Holbein, p. 130, no. 98, repr.
The nude woman on the left holds a pair of scales in which a feather outweighs two clasped hands, a symbol of fidelity. The figure on the right is clothed in fashionable dress and holds what appears to be - for it is only suggested with a few light pen-strokes — a harness, rather than a palm of martyrdom as Winkler suggested. The figure on the left represents 'fair-weather' friendship, which fades with the onset of adversity. The idea of a feather possessing more weight than this worthless association is described in the book of emblems by Guillaume de la Perrière, ‘Le Théâtre des bons engins’ of 1536, no. 14 (first illustrated edition, Paris, 1539; Henkel-Schöne, p. 1361). The two figures are possibly studies for sections of a glass-painting, although why one should be nude and the other clothed is not altogether clear. A fashionably dressed woman holding scales which contain a feather and a pair of clasped hands is also seen in a Swiss glass-painting of c. 1515 (Zürich, Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, inv. no. LM6432). In this case, however, the direction of her superficial friendship, or fidelity, is made clear, since she is in the company of an elderly man who supports the heavier scale containing the feather with his hand, and gazes lovingly in her direction.
The drawing is typical of Kulmbach's delicate, somewhat faltering line. It is similar in treatment to the artist's drawing of a ‘Standard bearer’, dated 1510 (formerly Kiel, Kupferstichkabinett des Schleswig-Holsteinischen Kunstvereins; Winkler, ‘K&S’, pl. 27) and was probably made at about the same time.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1928 BM London, Guide Woodcuts, Drawings of A. Dürer, no. 313
1990 April-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D (no cat.)
1988, July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no. 98
2014 Feb-May, London, National Gallery, 'Strange Beauty'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: C,07.113