There are seven prints where Dürer places a ball in the composition and one painting. The first time he does this was when he started his career as a Master in this print of 1495:
The print has wrongly been called the “Small Fortune” by historians. Why is the called the Small Fortune?
It all has to do with Greek and Roman mythology and the idea that Dürer came home from Venice in 1495 eager to copy what the Italians were doing as a methodology of selling his art, partly because the woman is shown nude (See my former article “Sex Sells.”)
WHERE’S THE MARKET?
But it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Dürer would be copying the Italian artists in this way for he was merely a regional artist at this point in time. His markets were Nuremberg, Augsburg, Regensberg, and Frankfurt.
These very German areas were not known to be avant garde cities where art was concerned, where mostly very religious art was being produced and sold. There’s not a lot of evidence that the Germans were interested in a Greek/Roman revival in art, nor willing to part with their money for it.
Tyche was represented with different attributes. Holding a rudder, she was the divinity guiding and conducting the affairs of the world. When depicted with a ball, she represented the varying unsteadiness of fortune–unsteady and capable of rolling in any direction.
The goddess Nemesis was cautiously regarded as the downside of Tyche, one who provided a check on extravagant favours conferred by fortune. The pair were often depicted as companions in Greek vase painting. As centuries passed the name Nemesis (Fortune) became the more usual one to use when talking about fate. For more on these goddesses see http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Tykhe.html
Thus, historians claim that a naked woman standing on this ball has to be Nemesis because she stands on a ball. It’s a circular argument. The other clues in the print are ignored. She is called the Small Fortune because of the paper size of the print.
“IF YOU’VE GOT THEM BY THE BALLS, THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS WIL