This relief-like engraving depicts the seated figures of the Three Fates of ancient Greek mythology with their instruments for spinning. Clotho at left spins, Lachesis winds in the centre and Atropos tests tensility at right. It is after a now lost drawing related to the stucco bas-relief designed by Giulio Romano in the Sala dei Stucchi, Palazzo del Te, Mantua, but is two generations removed from this.

The original print was by Giorgio Ghisi, a major printmaker from Mantua who is often confused with his namesake and near contemporary, Adamo Scultori, also represented in the collection, whose close association led him to be given the name Ghisi. Both artists produced engravings after their still more famous fellow Mantuan, Giulio Romano.

Te Papa's impression dates from probably a century later. It is either a copy or else a reworking of Ghisi's plate, published by either Jacques Honervogt I or II: this father and son team worked in Paris for much of the 17th century. Their products are impossible to distinguish, and are catalogued by the British Museum under the one name. Honervogt began as an engraver, before becoming a publisher, and was sued by Rubens for breach of copyright.

In this print, Honervogt added inscriptions identifying the names of the Three Fates as well as his own signature.  An earlier state of the engraving is also in Te Papa's collection (1910-0001-1/16-80). Both prints form part of the collection mounted in the so-called King George IV album, acquired by the Dominion Museum in 1910.


British Museum Collection online, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx? objectId=1466431&partId=1&searchText=ghisi+three+fates&page=1

British Museum, 'Jacques Honervogt (Biographical details), https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=120740

Dr Mark Stocker    Curator, Historical International Art             March 2017


  • Title: The three Fates
  • Creator: Giorgio Ghisi (engraver) | Giulio Romano (after) | Jacques Honervogt (publisher)
  • Date Created: after 1558
  • Location: Mantua
  • Physical Dimensions: plate: 220mm (width), 139mm (height)
  • Provenance: Purchased 1910
  • Rights: No Known Copyright Restrictions
  • External Link: Te Papa Collections Online
  • Support: paper
  • Registration ID: 1910-0001-1/16-80

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