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Melancholy

Print, 1514, 23.8×18.6 cm

Description of the artwork «Melancholy»

"Melancholia" the most famous and the most enigmatic engraving by Albrecht dürer. This is one of the most difficult works in the world art. Five centuries of its existence, "Melancholia" has acquired volumes of comments and interpretations, but it says a modern authority on the works of dürer Marcel Brion, "makes it more understandable, easier to interpret, and it really requires much more explanations and comments than any other picture, except perhaps Mona Lisa".

The concentration of symbols and significance of "Melancholy" dürer has no equal in the twentieth century is considered to be one of the most significant puzzle, given to mankind by art. Art critics and historians, culture experts and geographers, mathematicians and philosophers, astronomers and astrologers interpreted the engravings of dürer, based on the data of their areas of knowledge. But it is also true that even before the viewer will take the logical attempts to penetrate the meaning of objects and decipher the secret message, he's "feeling" has already been given to feel a tart bitterness, viscous heaviness and latent tenderness durasovsky melancholy.

Archiv, aware of the vastness of the accumulated art information about "Melancholy" by Durer, tried to systematize the answers to those basic questions that first come to mind in its contemplation.

Why would dürer appeals to such a strange and unusual topic?


Perhaps for the simple reason that the belong to the constellation of the melancholic. Letters and notesDurer, his self-portraits without a shadow of a smilethe particular deeply dark contemplation serve as a good illustration of this point.

The Viennese art historian Carl Gielow first suggested that the source of the engravings of Durer was the treatise "Occult philosophy" of Agrippa Nettesheim. For this German mystic melancholy is more than a state of depression, utrachennoy and depression. Melancholic for him almost equal to genius. The melancholic is not simply overwhelmed by the movement of an organism in its heavy blood and black bile: "melancholic obsession", which manages the planet Saturn makes a person of this temperament is capable of the highest forms of spiritual activity. Claiming that all geniuses are melancholic, Agrippa is not alone. This was the opinion of the Italian humanist Marsilio Ficino, and even Aristotle.

"So who are you, finally?": who is the Central character of the engravings of Durer "Melancholia"?


Definitions were offered a number: an allegory of melancholy, heavenly genius, winged virgin etc. "Immediately feeling that the winged woman oppressed by doubts and dissatisfaction"– says the Medievalist Cecilia, Esselstrom. By the way, occasionally the view was expressed that the figure of melancholy – male: confirmation was given her athletic physique and manly brush. And in General – too similar Melancholy on the master Albrecht: if "La Gioconda" only suggest a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, "Melancholia" is considered "spiritual self-portrait of Durer" almost officially.

Himself dürer engraving commented sparingly, but mentioned that the keys on the belt of Melancholy – a symbol of power, and the purse at her feet the riches (in dürer's lifetime, despite its power over the minds and hearts, with a wealth chronically exist, so you can probably guess why purse dismissively thrown to the ground). The head of Melancholy, decorated with a wreath of buttercups and watercress – folk remedies against the dangerous attacks of deadly anguish.

The most up to date authoritative interpreters of "Melancholy" Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl came to the conclusion that Durer, creating an image of Melancholy, mixed two iconographic tradition of the melancholic image of the popular in his era calendars and medical treatises and the personification of geometry from philosophical treatises that "led to the intellectualization of melancholy and humanization of geometry".

Why is sleeping cherubs?


Behind the right shoulder of the winged figure of Melancholy is another character with wings – little chubby Cupid, or Eros. He took a NAP over a book on the edge of millstones, covered with fabric with fringe adds a necessary layer between the rough cold surface of the stone and warm baby skin (a fine workmanship cutter dürer is that you will be alive to enjoy all these textured-temperature points). The most important question here is why Eros is Napping? He's not hovering playfully, as he used to, and does not look out for a victim who could hit with his arrow. Obviously, this must mean that in a state of melancholy that has engulfed the artist, covered earthly desires and passions. This, however, is true not only for the artist but for any thinking and doing: when is melancholy, erotic attraction fades and modestly removed on the second plan. "Love passed, the Muse came", how is the order of things in Pushkin.

If we agree that melancholia is not destructive and depressive, but rather creative and constructive, here is a short and to the analogy between durasovskom a sleeping Eros, and the idea of sublimation (redirection of biological energy from the sexual needs on the creation and creativity), which will be formulated by Sigmund Freud in 400 years.

Why next to the word "MELENCOLIA" is also a symbol of "I"? What does it mean?


There are several versions, is neither universally accepted one. Here are the most interesting.

1. Melancholic – as you know, one of the four types of temperament, which was already allotted Hippocrates, Galen and Aristotle. In the time of Durer, the system was well known. For example, his contemporary, Hieronymus Bosch, painting "The crowning with thorns"the researchers see as clear an illustration of all 4 temperament types and perceived self-portraits of Bosch (this picture and the so-called "melancholy beast" from "the Garden of earthly delights", with the right wing), and self-portraits of dürer, characterize these artists as bright representatives of the melancholic type. Some believe that Durer was able to conceive the cycle of the 4 prints, the first of which was "Melancholia I", and under the following sequence numbers set would the other types are sanguine, choleric and phlegmatic. However, no evidence that dürer also very interested in other temperaments, no.

2. In the XV century Italian humanists relying on the judgment of Plato and Aristotle talked about the special creative abilities inherent in the melancholic temperament, and in Germany, Agrippa Nettesheim suggested a typology which is divided into three melancholic subtype, and dürer with her, apparently, was familiar. The first are those of the imagination: the craftsmen, artists and poets. Second – the man of reason: scientists and statesmen. Third – people SVERKAJUSHEGO, intuitive knowledge: theologians and philosophers. Assume that dürer called the engraving "Melancholia I", because belong to the first type of the melancholic.

3. According to third version, inverting the sense of melancholy for the artist upside the head, I is not a number and the letter of the Latin alphabet. The short word "I", second person singular from the verb "eo" means "Go away!". Therefore, in the engraving of dürer creates something like a magic spell to get rid of sadness and anxiety: "Melancholy, go away!" or "Melancholy, away!"

Why is the engraving depicted so many tools?


Art historian Paola Volkova after Panofsky and Saksham believes that the Central theme of the engraving "Melancholia" is human cognition that is moving in ascending steps. The first level is knowledge of the craft, carried out through objects, tangible things, that's why "lower tier" dürer scattered saw, plane, ruler, hammer, nails, a perfect sphere, carved by some master, is at the pinnacle of excellence to be achieved by the craftsman. The second level of cognition is the scientific, experimental: instruments – compasses, scales, hourglass, magic Board, melting crucibles alchemist, polygon ("magic crystal"); on this second level the knowledge is transferred from the craft of concreteness to the abstractions. Well, the third and highest level is the knowledge of the super-rational, intuitive, connects man with God. Thought Volkova, this level of knowledge that represents stairs – it is lawful to associate with the ladder of Jacob's dream (Gen. 28:12-16), on which the angels ascend to heaven and descend to earth and which serves for communication with the Almighty.

A particularly interesting and controversial subject – table of figures, engraved on the wall of the tower. This so-called magic square: the sum of the numbers in each vertical, horizontal and diagonal equals 34. From Agrippa Nettesheim, fascinated by the Kabbalah, were already "square of Jupiter," but distinguished geometer Albrecht Durer has made its (sometimes called the "square of Saturn"), encrypting it in numbers that are significant to him personally: for example, the day my mother died (16.05) and the year of creation of "Melancholy" (the average figures in the bottom row make 1514). However, I think there's undeciphered and numeric codes. German researcher dürer abi Warburg writes that the first magic square appeared not Agrippa, and in the Arab astrological book Picatriх and therefore is "a vestige of ancient pagan practice."

And by the way, unanswered remains the question, why not dürer depicted the artist's tools – brushes, paints, palette, palette knife, cutter?

Why in the sky of both the comet and the rainbow?


In the top left corner, Durer placed the landscape: the water surface formed a very long horizontal strokes, a small architectural fragment, and celestial phenomena – rainbows and speeding comet, or, as they said, "tailed star". In addition to the purely artistic effect, giving joy to the eye from the comparison of lines (parallel, concentrically converging at one point and a curve forming a semi-circle), what the semantic component are the rainbow and the comet?

I must say that Durer was fond of astronomy, was involved in compiling star maps, and on the roof of his house in Nuremberg was a small Observatory, where he could observe the movement of celestial bodies.
The appearance on the horizon of the comet – a rare and disturbing – always, not only in the time of Durer, was seen as a harbinger of something terrible. So it was in the beginning of the XVI century, when the crumbling foundations of the feudal order and there was political and religious upheavals, and the Europeans felt the uncertainty and the panic came from in the movement of "tectonic plates" under his feet. In the notebooks of dürer in 1503-the year is an interesting testimony about the disturbing atmosphere of exaltation around him then: "The greatest miracle I've ever seen in my entire life, happened in 1503, when many people began to fall on the cross, and especially many children. Of them I had seen one in this shape, I then painted. And he fell to the maid Ayer, who was sitting in the back of the house Pirkheimerdirectly on the shirt, on linen fabric. And she was so upset that I cried and really complained, because she was afraid that she would die from it. Also I saw in the sky a comet".

Comet in the perception of dürer's symbol, of course, the apocalyptic, the "star of Wormwood" from Revelation: "The third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great star, blazing like a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is called wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters because they were made bitter" (Rev. 8:10-11)

But then it's time to ask: what's a rainbow (moreover, in reality, these phenomena are unlikely to occur simultaneously)? Notice that dürer is not just a rainbow, but a rainbow over the water. Which clearly refers to the Book of Genesis, which tells about the end of the flood and the Covenant (contract) of God with Noah and his descendants that now no one else will be ruined and destroyed, a symbol of what will become a rainbow: "I do set My bow in the cloud, and it was a sign of the Covenant between Me and the earth. And when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen [My] in the cloud; and I will remember My Covenant which is between Me and between you and between all soul living in all flesh; and there will be a flood to destroy all flesh". (Gen., 9:13-15)

It turns out that in the upper left corner of "Melancholy" is not a conventional landscape, a case which just serve as a backdrop. On the contrary: they played the universal disasters. Well, as a person, gripped by melancholy, with equal probability, we can expect immense bitterness of the last judgment, and the ineffable mercy of God.

Why the inscription MELENCHOLIA I keep a bat?


Bat represents nightmares – no wonder one of the great European Carver, Francisco Goya, "the sleep of reason" will accompany flying in a chaotic rush of owls and batsthe heralds and the living symbols of misfortune and death. But dürer also important, at least, two semantic point. First, a bat holding a banner with the words "Melancholia I", and this may imply that melancholy is such a special, purely as night, some twilight of consciousness, when a person can suddenly be revealed to those meanings that are inaccessible to consciousness day, rational. A similar condition of special susceptibility to the unknown, to the call of destiny, to what does not fit into the understandable "day" order of things, good captures Pushkin's "Verses written at night during insomnia":

I can't sleep, no fire;
Everywhere darkness and sleep and irritated.
The clock just monotonous
Distributed near me
Parks Indian the babbling,
Sleeping nights the flutter,
Life mouse and running...
What are you worried about me?
What do you mean, boring whisper?
A reproach or a murmur
Me lost day?
From me what do you want?
You call or prophesy?
I understand you want
I sense in you looking for...

The second point that can Express the bat in dürer, is polemical, but he needed to say. Perhaps the bat hints at the frustration of the artist in the rational knowledge of being, to the futility of the human adventure. Of course, dürer was a Renaissance man in the sense that it is alive and deeply interested in natural science, and his achievements in geometry, geography, theory of fortification cannot be questioned. However, due to the peculiarities of temperament and a deep personal religiosity, he was far from the notorious Renaissance of the Titanic – the idea that man can in knowledge and creativity to compete with the Creator. "Then not seem absurd, – says Marcel Brion, – what dürer was trying to convey, on the one hand, my disappointment in an unsuccessful search of the secret that science has revealed it to him, and, possibly, mathematics and physics do not possess the key to this nagging mystery; but at the same time, he expresses his firm belief in the power of the human mind, is able to disperse the nightmares, which represents a bat."

Hourglass - a symbol of the transience of life?


As allegory watch traditionally indicate the limited time of human life, reminiscent of her limbs. But in this it is quite clear the symbol of dürer there are more subtle nuances and gradations of meaning.

Interestingly, hourglass – motif in dürer not a single, end-to-end. "Melancholy" are often combined in the cycle of so-called "workshops of prints" with the other two "The knight, Death and the Devil"and "St. Jerome in his cell". So, the hourglass appear in each of the three works. In one case, the hourglass holds Death in the face of the Rider: it's a reminder that time is running out inexorably, but the Knight is looking straight ahead, ignoring the warning, as if to show that time and death have no power over those who have high purpose. In "Jerome" hourglass are arranged quite differently, Durer depicts the Saint in his cell, more like not at refuge of the monk, and the office of the scientist-humanist (and at the office of the Durer). Jerome is busy with his life – long and painstaking translation of the old and New Testaments into Latin, and the watch keeps quiet regularity of his diligent training. "Melancholia" was created after these two prints, and an hourglass here incorporates both the semantic connotation and the inexorability of time and its reasonable regularity.

Why beast at the feet of Melancholy looks so drained? What does it symbolize?


Curled up, the dog looks scary skinny, lurking through the skin, muscles and bones. But perhaps this, and not hiding any deep meanings, in addition to the desire of Durer to show your own graphic virtuosity in the depiction of a living being, frozen in the most difficult to image position, the ability accurately to study anatomy. And the appearance of the engraving of a dog attributed to the fact that this animal, which is protected by Saturn, a gloomy and cold planet, "patron" of the melancholic (as sanguine obey Jupiter, phlegmatic – moon, and choleric – Mars).

By the way, like an hourglass, dog has all the three "master prints".

And whether there is in Durer's engraving of biographical preconditions for the creation of "Melancholy"?


It may seem that an intellectual puzzle "Melancholia" – the fruit of the pure speculative character, and game intelligence. However, biographers emphasize that the engraving appeared under the influence of a very specific life circumstances of the artist. In may 1514, the year after a long illness died, his mother, Barbara Durer. She lived a hard life, gave birth to 18 children, of whom survived sons Hans, Andres and Albrecht, has always been God-fearing, but sometimes was too hard on Durer, and the relationship eventually lost its credibility. In her dying hours, when, according to Marcel Brion, "old Barbara, who lost sight... say, gained for a moment on his deathbed, the former beauty of youth"her son's first was the idea of "Melancholy", but the complete picture for a long time didn't work, lacked details, the idea could not gain a complete incarnation.

The death of his mother, he experienced hard and then he would describe it in his "memory book": "And before his death, she blessed me and commanded to live in a world with this many fine teachings that I was wary of sins... And she was very much afraid of death, but said that is not afraid to stand before God. She's dead, and I noticed that she saw something terrible. For she asked for Holy water, though could not speak. Immediately after that, her eyes closed. I saw also how death was inflicted two major blows to the heart and as she closed her mouth and eyes and departed in agony. I prayed for her. I experience such pain that you can't Express".

In the biographical novel of Stanislav Darnitskogo "Durer" subsequent events as follows: "And the house was filled with old women and nuns, nowhere Polyanski of the death of the old Durresi. They all demanded something, gave some advice, but Albrecht never listened to anyone and saw no one. He ran away from home. Went down to the cemetery at the Church of St. Sebald, where now beside their father will be laid to rest and his mother. Hesitated at the door of the Cathedral, but then walked on to Pegnitz (river in Nuremberg – ed.). Heavy twilight bore down on the city. The twilight hour of melancholy, indecision and longing. From Pegnitz slowly rising fog. Flapped in the air someone's wings. A bird or a bat? He somehow had the winged woman, but so clear that he looked around, hoping to see her. One, the image faded. Beside the road lay a huge boulder anchored in the ground. A stray dog with an inverted stomach and protruding ribs stared at him hungry, waiting eyes... on that terrible night details are not given to it suddenly prints themselves have developed together. He made it his "Melancholy"".

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Print

Subject and objects: Allegorical scene

Style of art: Renaissance, Northern Renaissance

Technique: Engraving

Materials: Paper

Date of creation: 1514

Size: 23.8×18.6 cm

Artwork in selections: 77 selections

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