Dürer, Albrecht (1471-1528; German)
Melencolia I 1514
Engraving on paper, 23.9 x 18.6 cm (image)
Purchased, 1891 (advice of Hubert von Herkomer)
National Gallery of Victoria (p.184.13/1)

Scholarly studies of the symbolism of this remarkable print emphasize its exploration of the creative process. This impression, of the more common second state, is described by the NGV as more lightly inked than the Barlow impression bought in 1956. The gallery also owns Barlow’s impression of the rare first state (with the number 9 back to front in the “magic square” on the wall).

The main figure’s pose has been influential: see e.g. the first etching in Klinger Vom Tode I [Plates 1-10] 1889 {1891} NGV [ET]. The NGV also owns a recent local variant, a caricature of Paul Keating (Australian Prime Minister, 1991-96) in the role of Melancholy, by John Spooner, 1993.


AR 1891; NGV 1894, p.62 (II.Stawell Gallery, no.113); NGV 1905, p.76 (II.Stawell Gallery, no.161) [£50] 

For this impression, see alsoZdanowicz Dürer (1994), p.174 (cat.entry by Cathy Leahy).  For the Barlow prints, see https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/43335/ (1st state) and https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/43336/ (2nd state). The fundamental reference for the iconography is Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky & Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy, London: Nelson, 1964 (an astonishing feat of scholarship, and a fascinating read); see also Panofsky’s 1955 monograph on the artist

For the comparison with Klinger, see Zdanowicz Masters of Emotion (2007), unpaginated. For the Spooner cartoon, see https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/60352/