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The Importance of Restraint and Religion

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The Importance of Restraint and Religion

Albrecht Dьrer was born in Nьrnburg, Germany on May 21, 1471, and is often regarded as the greatest German Renaissance artist. His work ranged from not only self-portraits and other paintings, but he was also known for his various woodcuts, altarpieces, and engravings. Dьrer in about 1501 began work on one of his most famous pieces, an engraving called “Nemesis”. “Nemesis” is an engraving of an older aged female angel with her wings sprawled out. She is holding a cup in her right hand, and either reigns or chains in her left hand. She is standing on what appears could be either the sun or the moon and is overlooking a city that looks to be located in a mountainous area. After looking at the engraving, my first thought was that the objects in the hands of the angel have some sort of symbolic meaning or message being reflected to not only the people of the town, but the viewer as well. I would then go on to discover how the title of the engraving “Nemesis” would, in my opinion, offset the artwork perfectly.

When I first looked at “Nemesis”, the first thing I noticed was that the angel was overlooking or watching over a small town. I then noticed the two objects in the hands of the angel. I felt right away that the chains or reigns in one hand, and the cup in the other represents or has a special message that Dьrer is trying to convey is necessary in the lives of not only the people of the tiny village, but the viewers of the engraving as well. The chains or reigns in the left hand of the angel I think represent a message of restraint, specifically I think from evil actions and temptations for the viewers and the people of the town. I figured that the general purpose of a chain or reigns is to restrain or stop something and that for the people of the town and in general, the angel sees or knows the need to restrain from acting on temptations or actions that are unnecessary. The cup in the right hand of the angel is not just an ordinary mug, but it is a religious holy cup or goblet. The meaning behind this I think is that Dьrer is trying to symbolize or express, to viewers and the people of the town, the need for and value of some sort of religious belief in their lives.

The title “Nemesis” that Dьrer gave the engraving I found very interesting. From my prior knowledge of Greek Mythology I gained back when I was in high school, I know that Nemesis was the goddess of retribution, or compensation through either reward or punishment. I looked at the engraving for a really long time to try and figure out the connection Dьrer was trying to make between the title of his artwork and how he reflects it in the piece. The connection I found between the two was that through my understanding of the symbolism of the chains or reigns and the goblet in the hands of the angel. I believe that Dьrer is trying to say that if people practice restraint from evil actions and temptation and have some sort of religious belief, that they will be rewarded in some sense, and vice versa if they do not show this same restraint or have some sort of religious belief, they will be punished in some sense.

One thing that I particularly like about Dьrer’s work and his many engravings is his consistency in paying attention to detail. After I visited Kresge Museum, I decided to search on the internet to look at more of Dьrer’s engravings and I came across a piece he did in 1513 called “Sudarium Displayed by two Angels”. This engraving, like “Nemesis”, had angels in it, and what I really wanted to see was how similar Dьrer would portray the angels in “Sudarium Displayed by two Angels” and “Nemesis”. “Sudarium Displayed by two Angels” is an engraving of two angels flying in one place, holding up a picture that looks to be on a piece of cloth of Sudarium. The first

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