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Melencolia I
""Albrecht Dürer - Melencolia I - Google Art Project ( AGDdr3EHmNGyA).jpg
Artist "Albrecht Dürer
Year 1514
Type engraving
Dimensions 24 cm × 18.8 cm (9.4 in × 7.4 in)

Melencolia I is a 1514 "engraving by the German Renaissance master "Albrecht Dürer. It is an "allegorical composition which has been the subject of many interpretations. One of the most famous "old master prints, it has sometimes been regarded as forming one of a conscious group of Meisterstiche ("master prints") with his "Knight, Death and the Devil (1513) and "Saint Jerome in his Study (1514).[1]

The engraving measures 24 × 18.8cm.[2]



Detail of the magic square

The work has been the subject of more modern interpretation than almost any other print,[3] including a two-volume book by Peter-Klaus Schuster,[4] and a very influential discussion in "Erwin Panofsky's Dürer monograph.[5] Reproduction usually makes the image seem darker than it is in an original impression (copy) of the engraving, and in particular affects the facial expression of the female figure, which is rather more cheerful than in most reproductions. The (archaically spelled) title Melencolia I appears within the engraving itself. It is the only one of Dürer's engravings to have a title in the plate. The date of 1514 appears in the bottom row of the "magic square, as well as above Dürer's monogram at bottom right. It is likely that the "I" refers to the first of the three types of melancholia defined by the German humanist writer "Cornelius Agrippa. In this type, Melencholia Imaginativa, which he held artists to be subject to, 'imagination' predominates over 'mind' or 'reason'.[1]

One interpretation suggests the image references the "depressive or "melancholy state and accordingly explains various elements of the picture. Among the most conspicuous are:

An autobiographical interpretation of Melencolia I has been suggested by several historians. Iván Fenyő considered the print a representation of the artist beset by a loss of confidence, saying: "shortly before [Dürer] drew Melancholy, he wrote: 'what is beautiful I do not know' ... Melancholy is a lyric confession, the self-conscious introspection of the Renaissance artist, unprecedented in northern art. Erwin Panofsky is right in considering this admirable plate the spiritual self-portrait of Dürer."[9]

Dürer's Melencolia is the patroness of the City of Dreadful Night in the final canto of "James Thomson's "poem of that name.


  1. ^ a b National Gallery of Art: Melencolia I
  2. ^ "Melencolia I (Die Melancholie)" (in German). Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Retrieved 17 July 2012. ["permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Dodgson, Campbell (1926). Albrecht Dürer. London: Medici Society. p. 94.  "The literature on Melancholia is more extensive than on any other engraving by Dürer: that statement would probably remain true if the last two words were omitted."
  4. ^ Schuster, Peter-Klaus (1991). MELENCOLIA I: Dürers Denkbild. Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag. pp. 17–83. 
  5. ^ "Panofsky, Erwin; "Klibansky, Raymond; "Saxl, Fritz (1964). Saturn and melancholy. New York: Basic Books, Inc. 
  6. ^ "Weisstein, Eric W. "Dürer's Solid". Wolfram MathWorld. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  7. ^ Weitzel, Hans. A further hypothesis on the polyhedron of A. Dürer, Historia Mathematica 31 (2004) 11
  8. ^ It has been conjectured that Dürer had seen the "Ensisheim meteorite in 1492 and remained deeply impressed, see Ursula B. Marvin, "The meteorite of Ensisheim - 1492 to 1992", Meteoritics 27, p. 28-72 (1992) and "Christopher Cokinos, "The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars", New York: Tarcher/Penguin (2009). There is a painting of a similar celestial object on the back of "St. Jerome in the Wilderness (1496).
  9. ^ Fenyő, Iván (1956). Albrecht Dürer. Budapest: Corvina. p. 52.


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