Concept

Melencolia I

Summary
Melencolia I is a large 1514 engraving by the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. Its central subject is an enigmatic and gloomy winged female figure thought to be a personification of melancholia – melancholy. Holding her head in her hand, she stares past the busy scene in front of her. The area is strewn with symbols and tools associated with craft and carpentry, including an hourglass, weighing scales, a hand plane, a claw hammer, and a saw. Other objects relate to alchemy, geometry or numerology. Behind the figure is a structure with an embedded magic square, and a ladder leading beyond the frame. The sky contains a rainbow, a comet or planet, and a bat-like creature bearing the text that has become the print's title. Dürer's engraving is one of the most well-known extant old master prints, but, despite a vast art-historical literature, it has resisted any definitive interpretation. Dürer may have associated melancholia with creative activity; the woman may be a representati
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