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Thursday 3 January 2019

(attrib.) Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut, “Wheel of Fortune”, c1494

(attrib.) Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)

“Wheel of Fortune” (aka “Of the mutabylyte of fortune”), c1494, (original impression [with Latin text verso] thought to be by Dürer before the later copies by other artists of this rare woodcut) illustration to Sebastian Brant’s (1494), “Das Narrenschiff” (The Ship of Fools), published in Basel (Switzerland) before the English edition translated by Alexander Barclay, “Shyp Of Foles Of The Worlde”, published in 1509 (see a copy of this woodcut printed in the English version at Wikimedia Commons:,_Of_The_Mutabylyte_Of_Fortune.jpg).

Woodcut on fine laid paper with Latin text verso, trimmed with a small margin around the image borderline and backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 12.2 x 8.7 cm

Walter L Strauss (1981) in his commentary on page 516 in “The Illustrated Bartsch: Sixteenth Century German Artists: Albrecht Dürer” (vol. 10 [commentary], New York, Abaris Books), about Dürer's involvement in the illustrations to “Das Narrenschiff,” offers the following insight:

“The number of illustrations in 'The Ship of Fools' ascribed to Dürer range from ‘about a third’ by Panofsky [Erwin Panofsky 1943, 'Albrecht Dürer', vol. 1, Princeton, pp. 29–30], to 73 out of 115 (of which nine are repeats), according to Winkler [Friedrich Winkler 1951, 'Dürer und die Illustrationen zum Narrenschiff …', Berlin, pp. 30–32]. The others are given to a 'Master of the Heintz-Fool illustration' and a 'Master of the Gnadherr-Fool illustration,' based on the style of these two illustrations.”

Condition: richly inked, strong early impression (i.e. there are no signs of wear to the printing plate) with replenished losses (viz. three wormholes and a loss near the grass on the right margin). The sheet is trimmed close to the platemark and backed with a support of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this exceptionally rare woodcut—a fine example of this print before it was copied for the English edition—showing the Wheel of Fortune (aka Rota Fortunae) with fools transmogrified as donkeys attached to the wheel as it is turned by the hand of God, for AU$420 (currently US$292.83/EUR257.25/GBP233.09 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

If you are interested in purchasing this superb example of the 15th century notion of the Wheel of Fortune (i.e. the idea that fate evolves capriciously) and the evolution of man to a fool and ultimately to a complete ass—as shown here at the top of the wheel (mindful that the ass at the time was considered to be the epitome of stupidity)—please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

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