The Three Fates
Venice, about 1670
Oil on canvas
210.5 x 153.3 cm
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)