The Secrets of Sex and the Great Satyr (Hercules at the Crossroads)

Copyright Dr. Elizabeth Garner, Oct 5, 2013, All rights reserved


Hercules at the crossroads by Albrecht Durer
The Great Satyr erronously called Hercules at the Crossroads



Dürer did not name this print. We have no idea what the real name of this print is. The only print that Dürer ever titled was the 1495 Hercules woodcut which is this print.


The 1495 Hercules woodcut
The 1495 Hercules woodcut, the only print titled

In his Dairy of the Netherlands Journey, Dürer made only one entry about a print he called Herculum: Aug 20, 1520 at Antwerp “ I also gave the Factor of Portugal a “Herculum.”  The Factor of Portugal was an extremely powerful man. Scholars have assumed this composition is the Herculum referenced in the Diary because of its complexity, refusing to consider that the artist more likely referred to his intricate 1495 woodcut but poorly executed “Ercules”, which he had actually titled Ercules (Hercules) in the woodblock. The imagery in this print has no logical association with the myth of the classical hero and the title by which it is known is utterly inaccurate. But there appears to be an embedded theme of a Deadly Sin, with this composition representing Superbia, Pride. And it certainly indicates Dürer’s pride in many ways.


The Great Satyr
The Great Satyr

Let’s take a look at what the symbols are in the print.  We are lucky that two trial proofs have come down to us through history (Vienna Albertina and Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin), for it tells us, as the trial proofs do for Adam and Eve, what Dürer thought were the most important symbols in the print. It was expensive to pull a trial print (the paper cost) so Dürer would not have wasted his time pulling proofs except at the point that he wanted to make sure the symbols pertinent to the meaning of the print were perfectly executed.

What do we see in the trial proof?

1.What is most obvious is the huge tree directly in the middle of the picture is totally complete-numerous trunks of the tree at the top are bursting with robust foliage and then there’s one whole branch that goes off to the right which splits into a double “u” shape which culminates into a totally dead tree top.  When there is a tree directly in the middle of a Dürer print, he is telling two stories.  It’s one of his signature Cipher symbols.  So, this print tells us there are two stories in this one print, the one on the left and the one on the right which are intertwined somehow.   The right hand side is telling us that that the boy is connected with Italy somehow; the left, has to do with Nuremberg. The full foliage on the left part of the tree indicates full legality of inheritance, the right side that ends up in dead branches indicates bastardry.  This is also a consistent Cipher trick.

2. The woman in the center is totally complete-she is the key figure.  She is copied from Dürer’s Death of Orpheus 1494 drawing, which is a copy of Andrea Mantegna’s Death of Orpheus (Dürer copied much from Mantegna and used many of Mantegna’s art in the engravings), although Dürer has made two changes: her head is looking down at the woman and the satyr to the left in a deeper bend of the neck. Her headdress is the same headdress that is used for the main woman on the right of the 1497 Four Witches (also erroneously named)-so the headdress indicates that she is the same woman.

3. The other salient feature is that the position of her hands on the stick she is wielding has been switched from the original in the Death of Orpheus.  When we analyze this new position of the woman’s hands, we come to the realization that she physically cannot be striking at the woman and the satyr. It is physiologically impossible for the “strike” of the woman, even if she was swinging the stick as a golf club around and through the dead tree held by the naked man on the right, to hit the satyr and the woman next to him. The position of her hands proves that she could only strike the naked man with the rooster helmet-it’s a fabulous optical illusion.

4. The woman’s body next to the satyr is totally completed with what will be her head and veil just outlined, so the head that is placed on this woman is not that important; it is her body that is important. This body is another total copy of a woman’s body from Andrea Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods print.  So Dürer wanted to make sure that his tracing of Mantegna’s body had been executed properly. When the print is finished we see that she is of high social status. But it’s not her head that is important, it’s the fact that she’s holding drapery or a veil in her hand to cover her face-this piece of cloth is the method by which Dürer identifies to us who this woman is. And this woman’s name is Agnes. The name Agnes means Chaste (and apparently not having borne children). One of the iconographical art symbols for St Agnes and St Margaret shown are veils-St. Agnes is represented with a white veil.[1]  In this print we have a woman holding up a large white veil to shield herself from the rest of the action.  She is next to the Satyr so she’s associated with Dürer.  Thus this Agnes is Agnes Freyin Dürerin.

5. The naked man on the right is almost totally complete. Art historians consider that this naked body is a copy from Polliuallo’s Rape of the Sabine Women man but his stance is somewhat different.  What Dürer clearly makes complete is the helmet on the man’s head.  It is a rooster helmet, it has a “backwards” ammonite shell on the side in the shape of a “9” and the man is wearing a distinctive wreath on his head.

The “9” also identifies the central female figure. This same wreath is used on the middle figure in the Four Witches and we have already discovered that this wreath is the wreath that indicates the Frey family in the 1505 Satyr family.  The rooster is the heraldic crest of the Rummel Family-the ancestors of Dürer’s wife, Agnes Freyin.  So the man is actually representing the Frey/Rummels as the supposed enemy or defender of the satyr and his woman.

6. The Rummel/Frey naked man is defending with a long broken tree that shows a full set of dead tree roots at the left hand side (the roots of the family) and a jagged “no foliage” (heirs) end at the right.  The man’s position of the hands on the dead tree is also strange.  While his right hand firmly grips the dead tree, his left hand is actually shown merely placed on the top of the tree which would not allow him to firmly grip the branch as a weapon, another optical illusion. This is indicating that the man really can’t defend himself against the woman in the middle or in other words, the central woman is really attacking the Frey/Rummels rather than the Satyr and the woman with the veil.

7. The next thing we notice is that the jawbone of the ass held in the hand by the satyr is fully complete.  This tells us that the jawbone of the ass is a key clue to the story in this print.  As we will see through Dürer’s prints, the jawbone of the ass reappears a number of times. Old Testament scholars consider the jawbone of the ass to represent the most powerful weapon of the Bible, as wielded by Samson [Judges 15:16 “with the jawbone of an ass (or donkey) I have smitten 1000 men”].  We first see the jawbone of the ass in the hand of the old hag in the Hercules woodcut.  We see the jawbone of the ass behind the tortoise shell shield of the man in the Sea Monster. Dürer uses the symbol of the jawbone of the ass to indicate who is the most powerful figure in the story.  Since the jawbone is in the hands of the Satyr, the Satyr is the most powerful person in this composition, regardless if it appears that the naked man with rooster hat looks like  the defender of all.

The Great Satyr erronously called Hercules at the Crossroads

The landscape on the left of the tree is also completed in the trial proof and the landscape on the right is almost completed.  So it was important to indicate the two stories of Nuremberg and Italy appear correctly. The left hand side represents Nuremberg, but the right hand side indicates an area that is coastal-near water and has hilly terrain.  There is a tiny boat in the water.  This landscape reminds us of somewhere in Italy, since Nuremberg was landlocked.

The right leg/hoof and the left leg/hoof of the Satyr is totally completed so we need to take note of exactly how these hoofs are placed.  We notice that with the seated position of the Satyr as placed, the left hoof is too far extended into the scene to be reasonable from a proper perspective ans is directly in contact with the foot of the woman in the middle.  There’s a clue about these hoofs that are important and the improper perspective of the left hoof places it  almost exactly in the middle of the print.

What is not completed but outlined is the Satyr (although the wreath on it’s head is placed), the head of the woman next to the Satyr with drapery raised in front of her face, the landscape surrounding the naked man and the little boy running away from the scene on the right.  That boy is also an exact reverse copy of the boy in Dürer’s Death of Orpheus-so it’s traced, holding a bird.  These facts indicate that the woman next to the Satyr is not that important, nothing is really important about the Satyr except the wreath on his head, his weird left hoof, the fact that he holds the jawbone of the ass, the giant secret you will shortly learn which is completed in the trial impression, and the landscape with the running boy next to the naked man is not as important as the other clues of the print.

When the print is finished these are the remaining important clues:

The wreath on the head of the Satyr:  Dürer uses wreaths to identify people.  This particular wreath is used on in this print and is NEVER used again.  It is a very special wreath and it identifies a very SPECIAL satyr.  Using the Illustrated Bartsch (a scholastic art reference book) for art representations of plants, we find that the plant leaves that make up this wreath is winter cherry, which means nothing in English translation.  But we have to remember that Dürer is German speaking so we have to look up the German translation of winter cherry.  That translation is Judenkirch-Jew Cherry. The cherry is unimportant in this instance-it’s the fact that the name of this plant had the word Juden in it-the German word for Jew.

A Polish Depiction of the Azazel
A Polish depiction of the Azazel

For Dürer is telling us that THIS satyr is a very special satyr-the Jewish satyr -which no art historian would have recognized.  Nor would it be probable that any German after probably 1550 have ever known about the Jewish Satyr-for most of the Jews had been officially expelled from the Holy Roman empire and those Jews that did not chose to resettle close to the cities from which they were expelled started migrating eastwards towards Hungary and Poland, where conditions for them were more favorable. There was then little contact between these Eastern European Jews and Western Germany. Or it is the traditional German oak leaf wreath that indicates triumph.  So the Satyr not only has the most power, it is triumphing over all of the figures and is a Jewish satyr. But it doesn’t matter what the translation of the wreath is for Dürer makes sure we know this is a Jewish satyr, a satyr being half man, half goat.


The 1494 Death of Orpheus drawing, labeled the first pedophile
The 1494 Death of Orpheus drawing, labeled the first pedophile

The running boy is finished and is holding a bird in his hand like the original picture from which this figure is traced.  We have to discern the meaning of the boy.  Since the Nursing Mother (falsely known as the Penance of St. John Chrysostom) is Dürer’s depiction of the mother of his first bastard son, Anthoni, conceived in Italy, the Italian background behind this boy and the age of this boy seems to indicate Dürer’s pride of at least having fathered a son, holding a bird that in Yiddish indicated homosexuality (faggaleh).  So Dürer gives us a bisexual message.

The extraordinary discovery of a circumsized encoded penis on the satyr indicates that Dürer meant to give a Jewish message in this print, since circumcision was only practiced among Jews and Dürer is this satyr. This satyr must therefore be interpreted as “Jewish” in some way, crowned with a wreath of oak leaves, a German symbol of victory. The code on the penis is “OllO,” which has yet to be deciphered, and has similarities to symbols found in the encoded belt in Melencolia I (See the Melencolia I belt code below).

Sex penis Durer Albrecht Nuremberg Renaissance
The encoded circumsized Jewish penis with comparisons of uncircumsized penises drawn below


Melencolia Belt Code
Melencolia Belt Code

The Jewish “Azazel” was a goat that bore the sins of all the Jews on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Azazel (Aramaic: רמשנאל, Hebrew: עזאזל, Aze’ezel Arabic: عزازل Azazil) is an enigmatic name from the Hebrew scriptures and Apocrypha, where the name is used interchangeably with Rameel and Gadriel. The word’s first appearance is in Leviticus 16, where a goat is designated “FOR Azazel” and outcast in the desert as part of Yom Kippur. After Satan, for whom he was in some degree a preparation, Azazel enjoys the distinction of being the most mysterious extrahuman character in Jewish sacred literature. Unlike other Hebrew proper names, the name itself is obscure. Leviticus 16:8-10: “and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Aza’zel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; 1but the goat on which the lot fell for Aza’zel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Aza’zel.”

The goat was pushed off a cliff during ancient times and is the source of the concept of “scapegoat.” It appears that Dürer, as a hidden Jew, was identifying himself with the satyr, indicating that he was scapegoat of some sort, albeit a powerful one, and that the print references a family feud between the Dürers and his in-laws, the Frey/Rummels.


The Four Witches
The Four Witches (which are not witches), the headdress on the woman on the far right is the same as the woman in the center of this print

The headdress on the standing, central woman is also found in Dürer’s 1497 engraving titled by scholars as the Four Naked Women or Four Witches.  It appears that this headdress signifies Dürer’s sister Margret, co-artist.


Beast with two Horns from The Apocalypse
Beast with two Horns from The Apocalypse. The rooster helmet is on a man on the left side

The rooster helmet worn by the naked man is also found in Dürer’s woodcut called The Beast with Two Horns, part of The Apocalypse.  A rooster was used in the arms of the Nuremberg Patrician Rummel family.  Dürer’s wife, Agnes Frey, was descended from a Rummel family member, and Dürer’s own family had already been intermarried with the Rummels before his marriage to Agnes.

The final thing to note before we start explaining what this print really means is that Dürer’s implementation of the theme of the Seven Deadly Sins among his prints was done using the “opposite unlikely” Sin representation.  This print has two naked people, a satyr who was usually used to represent sexual lust, a woman battling and another naked child.  So it was assumed that this picture is about LUST.  Dürer uses the same technique with the other Deadly sin representations.  No one would suspect that the Sea Monster is the Deadly Sin of Wrath-the woman looks so calm; no one would think that the Prodigal Son actually represents the deadly Sin of Avarice-it looks like it would represent gluttony.  No one would suspect that Adam and Eve is actually the Deadly Sin of Lust-THE FALL OF MAN, as Adam and Eve is often wrongly called, is not based on sexual lust, it’s based on the snake convincing Eve to disobey God. The truth about this print is that this print is Dürer’s representation of the Deadly Sin of Pride.

And so we know immediately that the central figure, Margret is actually trying to hit a figure that represents the Freys/Rummels-Dürer’s in-laws by marriage-his connection to the German Nuremberg Patricians. The Frey/Rummel man is defending himself from a female Dürer, who represents Margret Dürerin.  The Satyr is a Jewish Satyr and the Satyr is the most powerful person in the picture because it holds the jawbone of the ass-the power symbol, which is Dürer. And that this is Dürer’s representation of the Deadly Sin of Pride. Albrecht is very proud of something in this composition.

The fact that Dürer actually uses the Azazel satyr in this print is an indication of Dürer’s purposeful intent to deflect his buyers from its true interpretation.  The knowledge of a Jewish Azazel is not one that would be commonly known in the Holy Roman Empire by Christians-it’s a very obscure Jewish symbol. It would be doubtful that any art historian starting in 1568 with Vasari, the first Dürer art historian, would have recognized such an obscure symbol after the Jews had basically migrated out of Western Europe.

So at this point we have Margret Dürerin battling the Frey/Rummels, Albrecht Dürer representing himself as a Jewish sacrifice BUT the most powerful of all, and Agnes his wife is looking for protection from her husband who seems quite unaffected by her fear.

Which leaves us with the identification of the child running away from the scene on the right hand side.  We know this child is a tracing in reverse from Dürer’s Death of Orpheus but why is it necessary for Dürer to include a child in the scene at all?  Whose child is this?

The child is represented at an age of probably 2-3 years old and we can definitely see that it’s a male child.  The identification of this child is made by the landscape that is on the right hand side of the picture.

The Nursing Mother from 1496
The Nursing Mother from 1496

What child would be associated with a Dürer, with Italy, and who is not “really” connected officially with a Dürer?  There is only one-Albrecht Dürer’s 1st bastard, Anthoni (we learn his actual name much later in Melencholia Symbol I) represented in the Nursing Mother erroneously called Penance of St. John Chrysostom-who would have been roughly 2-3 years of age.  He’s a bastard, he’s not legally connected to the Dürer family and he’s placed on the LEFT SIDE of the figures in the composition-the heraldic sinister side which was used to represent bastard children. So now we have 4 Dürer figures in this print.

Let’s put it all together. Dante’s definition of Pride (Superbia) is as follows: Pride (Superbia-vanity) – an excessive love of self or holding self out of proper position toward God or fellows. Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor,” And what is this story composition about?

The excessive hatred and contempt for the Frey/Rummels and the representation that Dürer, the Azazel, was the one who sacrificed himself for the good of his family.  Dürer made a giant personal sacrifice in making The Apocalypse. Four Jewish Dürers are represented (although technically if the child’s mother had not been Jewish, the bastard would not be considered Jewish either; it is possible that the mother was not Jewish since she was a Patrician’s daughter in Italy but we can’t be sure until the coat of arms of the Nursing Mother are decoded in that print telling us exactly who she is).

Dürer’s sister Margret, the naked man with the rooster helmet, which are the coat of arms of a famous ancestor of Dürer’s in-laws appear to be battling about the fact that Agnes had yet to bear an heir after 5 years of marriage and her chances of doing so were disappearing as she aged. Dürer is proud that he could at least father a child and basically shoves it in the faces of all the Frey/Rummels. And just to make the humiliation even worse, he indicates his bisexuality to embarrass all of them.

However, the worse thing is that the bastard son is not Jewish without a Jewish mother, so even from an inheritance standpoint, the bastard can’t really count for inheritance purposes to the Dürers.  There’s a chance that the Freys were crypto Jews also, so it makes the entire situation worse for both families.

Dürer would have his revenge for making them marry Agnes.






[1]  ,M1

Share the postShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on Facebook

One thought on “The Secrets of Sex and the Great Satyr (Hercules at the Crossroads)

Comments are closed.