Melencolia I

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Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75)*engraving  *24 x 18.8 cm *1514 Albrecht Durer-Melencolia I-1514 The most famous of the many outstanding works by the genius of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Durer’s etchingMelencolia I (Melancholy I), is replete with esoteric and alchemical references and has been the subject of much debate and interpenetration. The title is taken from the German occultist Cornelius Agrippa’s theory of melancholy, in his influential book On the Occult Philosophyhe states that in artists Melencolia Imaginativa predominates over both mind and reason.

A winged figure, Lady Melancholy sits slumped surrounded by symbolic objects. In Medieval and Renaissance medicine, melancholy was a humour caused by an excess of black bile and herposture suggests the contemplative attitude and the mental anguish produced in people who suffer with this temperament. Artists, philosophers, theologians and craftsmen were thought to particularly susceptible to melancholy and were often said to have a Saturnine nature, that is to be under the influence…

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