Inscribed in plate, upper left corner in banner: MELENCOLIA I
Date and monogram in plate, lower right: 1514 / AD
The subject of Dürer’s enigmatic composition—one of his most famous—is a brooding, winged woman surrounded by a clutter of tools and scientific instruments. She personifies melancholy, the temperament of genius according to Renaissance philosophy; the drowsy, idle dog to her left could be emblematic of the melancholic temperament. Faithful hounds were also depicted as companions to scholars and philosophers. The canine appears emaciated, but contemporary viewers may have seen this lean breed as beautiful, valuing its usefulness in the hunt.
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