Bequest of Mrs. Madeleine Hamill in memory of Lawrence Hamill 1949.95
Catalogue raisonné: Meder 85
Dürer’s curious engraving relates a comical story about the exposure of womanly deception. This housewife, identified by her clothing and the key and purse at her hip, had eaten an eel that her husband was saving. Although she denied it, her pet magpie, a bird associated with idle chatter, witnessed her deviousness and tattled. In revenge, she plucked the bird’s head bare and each time the magpie saw a bald man, the bird asked whether the man had also been telling the story of the eel. Even without knowing the narrative, the wife’s calculating glance toward the viewer and her husband’s dimwitted gluttonous appearance communicates the woman’s sense of superiority, but also her cunning.
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