barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Sebastiano Mazzoni (about 1611 – 1678)

The Three Fates

Venice, about 1670

Oil on canvas


According to classical myth, the destiny of man is determined by the Three Fates. 

They spin, measure, and cut the thread of life.  At the top, Clotho holds a spinning whorl from which comes the thread.  It is gathered by Lachesis, and cut below by Atropos with her shears.  The Fates are accompanied by a serpent, symbol of evil.  Behind, a broken column symbolises a life cut short.

Mazzoni’s choice of young women to represent the Fates, instead of old and ugly crones, adds a further sinister element.  The artist himself suffered cruelly at the hands of fate – he died after a fall down stairs.


Purchased 1990 (No.90.1)