MELENCOLIA I

It is the third of the 'master prints', perhaps the most complicated and most perfect creation of Dürer. The artist shows the human aspiration to penetrate the secrets of the universe and terrible doubts and disappointments that he will surely meet.

For five centuries interpreters try to decipher the message and the symbols of the engraving. Most of them argue that Dürer depicted the melancholic temperament. Humanists of his time were specifically interested in that kind of temperament.

Melencolia I is the only engraving that Dürer ever titled in the plate itself. The melancholic temperament was always seen as the most dangerous of four, leading to dangerous illnesses and madness. In the end of the 15th century, Marsilio Ficino, a Florentine, described the melancholic temperament as something inherent for all the talented people, people with a God-given obsession. For him, melancholy was a spiritual and elevated state of mind. Dürer undoubtedly knew Ficino's theory and depicted his powerful heroine in that state. Dürer's allegory has another sense as well. The objects scattered around the woman refer to arts and sciences, symbolizing the creative genius.