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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: The Three Fates
Date: ca. 1545
Medium: Engraving
Dimensions: Sheet (approx.): 9 3/4 × 6 1/2 inches (24.8 × 16.5 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the Professor and Mrs. M. H. Abrams Purchase Fund
Object Number: 2018.062
Label Text: This print, circulated through many impressions, was meant to market the court culture of the French king Francis I at the elegant palace of Fontainebleau, his favorite residence a day’s journey from Paris. Francis fashioned his court after ancient Rome, installing Roman-style baths and requisitioning art from fashionable Italian artists.

The Florentine Rosso Fiorentino brought with him a courtly style based on a unique blend of classical subject matter and sensuality. Here he depicts the Three Fates from classical mythology, responsible for the thread of human life. This particular version of the theme is unusual because the fates are normally shown as old women—Rosso has instead chosen beautiful young women presented sensually, their limbs artfully elongated, presuming a male heterosexual viewer. Clotho at left spins, seated on an urn of flowers indicating youth and promise. Lachesis determines the length of the thread, and rides a stylized chariot indicating a journey. Atropos breaks the thread at life’s end, her arms flung wide in a gesture reminiscent of the Virgin Mary’s lamentation over the dead Christ in a Rosso painting at about the same time. (“Undressed: The Nude in Context, 1500-1750,” text by Andrew C. Weislogel and presented at the Johnson Museum February 9-June 16, 2019)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.