Dürer’s Enigma

A Kabbalistic Revelation in Melencolia § I

in Aries
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

Abstract

According to Panofsky’s widely-accepted theory, the subject of Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia § I (1514) was intended as a feminine personification of the liberal art Geometry and the temperament Melancholy. However, we argue that this synthesized personification is a façade. The formulaic veneer was meant to camouflage a layer of meaning that was only accessible to those who were familiar with the writings of the Christian Kabbalists Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Johannes Reuchlin. The symbolism of Melencolia § I, like that of its counterpart engraving Saint Jerome in his Study (1514), was influenced by Dürer’s interest in Christian Hebraism. Our research findings show that this image can best be understood as a visual interpretation of Pico’s Humanist manifesto Oratio (1486). Viewed from this perspective the main character of Dürer’s Melencolia § I transcends the bounds of the personification of Melancholy perceived by Panofsky, and transforms into an important figure in Pico’s Oratio, the high angel of Jewish mysticism, Metatron.

Dürer’s Enigma

A Kabbalistic Revelation in Melencolia § I

in Aries

Sections

References

Alciati Andrea Andreae Alciati Emblematum Fontes Quatuor: Namely an Account of the Original Collection Made at Milan 1522 and Photo-Lith Fac-Similes of the Editions Augsburg 1531 Paris 1534 and Venice 1546. Edited by Henry Green Manchester: A. Brothers 1870.

Agrippa of Nettesheim Henry Cornelius The Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited by Donald Tyson and James Freake Woodbury MN: Llewellyn Publications 2014.

Dürer Albrecht Of the Just Shaping of Letters. Edited by T. Nichol New York NY: Dover Publications Inc. 1965.

Pico della Mirandola Giovanni Commentationes Ioannis Pici Mirandulae in Hoc Volumine Contentae: Quibus Anteponitur Vita per Ioannem Franciscum Illustris Principis Galeotti Pici Filium Conscripta Bologna: Benedetto Faelli 1496.

Pico della Mirandola Giovanni On the Dignity of Man. Edited by A. Robert Caponigri Chicago IL: Henry Regnery Company 1956.

Pico della Mirandola Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola: Oration on the Dignity of Man: A New Translation and Commentary. Edited by Francesco Borghesi Michael Papio and Massimo Riva New York NY: Cambridge University Press 2012.

Pliny the Elder The Natural History of Pliny. Edited by John Bostock and Henry Thomas Riley. Vol. 2 London: Henry G. Bohn 1855.

Reuchlin Johann Johann Reuchlins Briefwechsel. Edited by Ludwig Geiger Tübingen: Litterarischer Verein in Stuttgart 1875.

Reuchlin Johann On the Art of the Kabbalah. Edited by Martin Goodman and Sarah Goodman Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press 1993.

Abrams Daniel ‘The Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead’. Harvard Theological Review 87:3 (1994): 291–321.

Anon The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature Science and Art. January to June Volume XI London: Robert Scott Walker 1877.

Black Crofton Pico’s Heptaplus and Biblical Hermeneutics. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions: History Culture Religion Ideas Leiden and Boston: Brill 2006.

Bregman Alvan M. Emblemata: The Emblem Books of Andrea Alciato Bird & Bull Press Newtown PA 2007.

Conway William M. The Writings of Albrecht Dürer. Edited by William Martin Conway New York: Philosophical Library 1958.

Copenhaver Brian P. ‘The Secret of Pico’s Oration: Cabala and Renaissance Philosophy’. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 26:1 (2002): 56–81.

Finkelstein David Ritz The Melencolia Manifesto San Rafael CA: Morgan and Claypool Publishers 2016.

Goodrick-Clarke Nicholas ‘Ramon Lull’s New World Order: Esoteric Evangelism and Frontline Philosophy’. Aries 9:2 (2009): 175–194.

Guiley Rosemary The Encyclopedia of Angels New York NY: Checkmark Books 2004.

Heckscher William S. ‘The Unconventional Index and Its Merits’. The Indexer 13:1 (1982): 6–25.

Hutchison Jane C. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography Princeton: Princeton University Press 1990.

Kilcher Andreas B. ‘The Theological Dialectics of Christian Hebraism and Kabbalah in Early Modernity’. In The Jew as Legitimation 47–62 Amsterdam: Palgrave Macmillan US 2017.

Klibansky Raymond Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy Religion and Art 1964.

Köhler Carl A History of Costume New York NY: Dover Publications Inc. 1963.

Lexer Matthias Mittelhochdeutsches Handwörterbuch Leipzig: Verlag von S. Hirzel 1872.

Lynch Terence ‘The Geometric Body in Dürer’s Engraving Melencolia I’. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 45.

Minty Mary ‘Albrecht Dürer’s “St. Jerome in His Study” of 1514: A Reassessment’ McGill University 1985.

Orlov Andrei The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. Edited by Martin Hengel and Peter Schäfer. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 107. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2005.

Panofsky Erwin The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1971.

Parshall Peter W. ‘Albrecht Dürer’s St. Jerome in His Study: A Philological Reference’. The Art Bulletin 53:3 (1971): 303–305.

Price David H. Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism Reformation and the Art of Faith Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2006. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Price David H. ‘Christian Humanism and the Representation of Judaism: Johannes Reuchlin and the Discovery of Hebrew’. Arthuriana 19:3 (2009): 80–96.

Price David H. Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books Oxford University Press 2010.

Richter Leonard ‘Unser Chamäleon. Die Weltchiffre Des Menschen Bei Pico Della Mirandola Und Albrecht Dürer’. Perspektiven Der Philosophie 33 (2007): 305–392.

Schmidt-Biggemann Wilhelm Philosophia Perennis: Historical Outlines of Western Spirituality in Ancient Medieval and Early Modern Thought Dordrecht: Springer 2007.

Schmitt Charles B. Gianfrancesco Pico Della Mirandola and His Critique of Aristotle International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives Internationales d’ histoire Des Idées Dordrecht: Springer 1967.

Scholem Gershom Kabbalah New York NY: Penguin Group 1978.

Schreiber Peter ‘A New Hypothesis on Dürer’s Enigmatic Polyhedron in His Copper Engraving “Melencolia I” ’. Historia Mathematica 26:4 (1999): 369–377.

Schuster Peter-Klaus Melencolia I: Dürers Denkbild Berlin: Mann 1991.

See T.J.J. ‘Sirius in Ancient Times’. Popular Astronomy 2:5 (1895): 193–198.

Tyson Donald ‘Appendix V’. In Three Books of Occult Philosophy edited by Donald Tyson and James Freake 733–752 Woodbury MN: Llewellyn Publications 2014.

Waetzoldt Wilhelm Dürer and His Times New York: Phaidon Publishers 1950.

Yates Frances A. Giardano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press 1992.

Yates Frances A. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age New York and London: Routledge 2001.

Yates Frances A. The Art of Memory London: Pimlico 2012.

Zika Charles ‘Reuchlin’s’. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 39 (1976): 104–138.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Figure 1

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I, engraving, 1514, 18.6 × 23.8 cm

  • View in gallery
    Figure 2

    Albrecht Dürer, St Jerome in his Study, engraving, 1514, 24.7 cm × 18.8 cm

  • View in gallery
    Figure 3

    Albrecht Dürer’s House, historical reconstruction, Nuremberg

  • View in gallery
    Figure 4

    Albrecht Dürer, St. Jerome in His Study (Der heilige Hieronymus in der Studierstube), Epistolae Title page woodcut, Incunabulum print on paper, by Nikolaus Kessler, Basel, 8th August 1492, 19.2 × 13.5 cm (left), and detail (right)

  • View in gallery
    Figure 5a

    Albrecht Dürer, Monogram of Christ, ca. 1500, print, 17.7 × 14.1 cm

  • View in gallery
    Figure 5b

    Albrecht Dürer, Monogram of Christ (detail)

  • View in gallery
    Figure 6

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I (detail), 1514

  • View in gallery
    Figure 7

    Attributed to Hans Leonhard Schäufelein, Chameleon, Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum Libellus, First Edition, Augsburg: Steyner, 1534, 10.5 × 16.1 cm

  • View in gallery
    Figure 8

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I (detail), 1514

  • View in gallery
    Figure 9

    Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise, From The Small Passion, woodcut, 1510, 12.7 × 9.8 cm. Bequeathed by Eustace F. Bosanquet

  • View in gallery
    Figure 10

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I (detail), 1514

  • View in gallery
    Figure 11

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I (detail), 1514

  • View in gallery
    Figure 12

    Illustration of Angelica (angelica archangelica), 1479

  • View in gallery
    Figure 13

    A page from Pico della Mirandola, Oratio, Editio Princeps, 1496, § 1–5 (132r). Edited by Giovan Francesco Pico, Bologna: Benedetto Faelli, 1496

  • View in gallery
    Figure 14

    Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia § I (detail), 1514

  • View in gallery
    Figure 15

    Dürer solid’s projected ground plan diagram, designer Phillip Lee

Information

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 58 58 20
Full Text Views 119 119 57
PDF Downloads 17 17 4
EPUB Downloads 8 8 0