Dürer’s personification of the melancholic temperament in his most famous print, Melencolia I, shows a brooding, inactive figure who sits under an hourglass, weighed down by her own thoughts and surrounded by the unused tools of creative endeavour and scientific research. Dürer’s representation was based upon the belief current in Renaissance humanist circles that melancholy was associated not so much with depression and madness as with exceptional creativity. There has never been a greater or more influential representation of the melancholic, creative temperament in the history of European art.
This is the very rare first state, before the reversed ‘9’ in the grid was corrected.
Text © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia