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19th Century Art


Albrecht Dürer

1471 – Nuremberg – 1528

”Melencolia I”. 1514

Copper engraving on laid paper. 24 × 18,8 cm. (9 ½ × 7 ⅜ in.) Catalogue raisonné: Bartsch 74 / Meder 75 II c-d (of f) / Schoch/Mende/Scherbaum 71. The present print is a beautiful example of the state M 75, II c-d (of f) described by Joseph Meder. Like most of the papers of the master prints, it has no watermark and is distinguished by its even silvery tone. In the magic square, the number 9 has been corrected to the correct side, and no scratch is yet visible on the ball.  [3294]

ProvenancePrivate Collection, Hesse

EUR 60.000 – 80.000
USD 66,700 – 88,900

Sold for:
125,000 EUR (incl. premium)

„Melencolia I“

Auction 340Wednesday, 1 June 2022
03:00 PM

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Dürer's "Melencolia I" - A Symbolic Image of the Modern Artist Type

"Dürer's master engraving of the "Melencolia" has always been regarded as one of his most enigmatic and most personal works. [...] Depicted is a richly dressed, winged female figure crowned with blossoms. She is sitting on a step in front of a wall corner, lost in thought, her head resting wistfully in her hand. Brooding, she squats in the midst of a chaotic jumble of objects and equipment left as if by chance on a building site. Carelessly, she holds a compass in her right hand and a book in her lap. At her feet, curled up, sleeps a pathetically emaciated dog. He reinforces the impression of tormenting inactivity, which not even the putto sitting on a millstone with his eager scribbling on a small tablet is able to cover up. Ominous signs appear in the night sky: a comet and a rainbow. On the outstretched wings of a bat is the title: MELENCOLIA I. The frosty, pale twilight of the nocturnal scenery makes the objects seem alien to one another. Robbed of their use value, they become questionable and problematic - a great pictorial riddle."
"The history of the concept and meaning of melancholy [...] shows a decisive change in Dürer's time. Whereas in the scholastic Middle Ages melancholy, stemming from an excess of black bile, was considered one of the deadly sins, to which melancholic inactivity, the sluggishness of the heart - today we would say depression - was assigned, the humanist Neoplatonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), arrived at a positive interpretation of melancholy. For him, the indecisive inaction of the melancholic was no longer a symptom of a pathological complexion, but to a certain extent an occupational ailment of the mentally strained, thinking person. The visual artist in particular, in his place between manual skill and intellectual-creative knowledge, was therefore necessarily exposed to the influence of melancholy and the planet Saturn."
Quoted from: Rainer Schoch. How Albrecht Dürer defined the modern artist type with his symbolic painting. Grisebach, auction catalogue no. 319, lot 48.

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