Melancholy by Albrecht Durer

Melancholy by Albrecht Durer

“Melancholy” – the second engraving in the famous series Three “Workshop engravings” on copper.

Majestic, meditated winged Melancholy, appearing in a strange, troubled world. The engraving is extraordinarily complex. There is a book at the woman’s hand, fastened to the clasp, she’s not up to reading right now. Above her head, the time measuring device is an hourglass connected to the solar clock. Nearby – a bell with a rope, which leaves the edge of the engraving. If someone invisible pulls the rope, the bell will ring. The hourglass and the bell always meant Durer: “Remember death”.

A woman is surrounded by various objects. The appointment of some is understandable, others are mysterious. Together they form chaos. It is not easy to understand. Above her head is a table marked with numbers, the so-called “Magic Square”. Numbers inscribed in any of its four fields horizontally, vertically and diagonally give a total of “34”. Women are surrounded by instruments for measuring: watches, compasses, ruler, scales.

Precision measuring instruments, attributes of exact sciences, are combined with accessories and symbols of magic. Scattered on the ground are the tools of crafts: saw, plane, pliers, hammer. They lay in disorder, in disregard – and they did not justify their hopes, they did not give relief. Piled to the wall a heavy stone millstone. When it rotates and grinds grain, it is a symbol of meaningful and continuous movement. Separated from the wings of a mill or a water wheel, he is a dead weight, a symbol of inert immobility.

We peer at the motionless millstone, into the nowhere leading ladder, into the strange space, chaotically filled with objects and feel the paradoxicality of the engraving: its parts are mysterious and incomprehensible, and the common Impression – sorrow, heavy meditation, alarm – arises immediately and without explanation is transmitted to us, covers our soul.

The winged woman sits heavily and wearily on the stone. Her wings are folded. The book is closed. The tools are scattered. But in it there lives not only fatigue. In it – a huge inner strength. And, obeying this creative power, this creative one, she will straighten herself, get up and go. And then spread his wings and soar.

And let the sand in the clock rapidly measure the time, let the bell ring reminds of the inevitability of death, the human thought will continue its flight. Creativity knows the state of deep despair, but it continues as long as the creative person lives. “Melancholy” is the embodiment of a man-creator, the confession of an artist, often desperate from the unreasonable gravity of the task that he undertook to solve, but true to the imperious desire to know and embody the world.

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