Melancolia I

Engraving mm 239 x 185

Meder 75 II/II a/f; mm 239 x 185

Superb impression in the first variant of the second state: after the correction of numbers 5 and 9 in the plate to the right of the figure; of the first state, before the corrections, only a few copies exist, all - except one - preserved in institutional archives. 

The woman's face is dark, as Meder describes for the first variant. Also absent are the scratches -on the dress near the knee and on the nails in the foreground- typical of the later second variants. 

The silvery effect described by Meder in the earliest and most valuable print is here quite effective and does not diminish the great contrast that gives a particularly sculptural appearance.

Extremely sharp, complete and in perfect condition. Rare is this quality and state of preservation.

On the verso there is the handwritten note by Pierre Mariette, the signature, partly evanescent (the letter "rie") and and the date 1666. Pierre Mariette provenance is one of the most desirable and prestigious collections in the history of graphic art and its market. Established by his father, Pierre Mariette I; Mariette father gave rise to four generations of passionate dealers and collectors and eminent connoisseurs of prints. Pierre Mariette I founded his first gallery in Paris in 1633 in rue St. Jacques, with the motto Nec plus ultra, later changed to Haec meta laborum. In addition to one of the finest selections ever assembled in the history of graphic art, the Mariettes were also the creators of numerous significant publications. (Lugt 1788) 


Melancholia Albrecht Dürer engraved the Melancholy for Emperor Maximilian, who was considered 'fearful of Saturn'; the work was supposed to describe his depression and melancholy. Engraved in the Master's magic period, around 1514, with The Knight, Death and the Devil and Saint Jerome in the Cell, it forms a triptych that addresses his reflections on the philosophical conception of art, culture and religion.

The engraving is the most complex print ever made by an artist and one of the most studied works in art history. Among these is Erwin Panofsky's accredited and compelling in-depth study, which accompanies his research with the most acute and cultured annotations on the meaning of the various symbols on the sheet. He demonstrates that even with the most advanced and daring investigations and the availability of much historical information, the explanation that is obtained does not fill the artistic quality and the supreme and inspired tension of the panel. 

The title's meaning is unanimously referable to the doctrines of the Italian and German Neo-Platonists, who identified the melancholic mood as the saturnine temperament and attributed the latter as proper to artistic talent. Dürer was familiar with this research, and we know he shared it, so it seems clear that the subject is an allegory of life and artistic inspiration. It also seems probable that he wanted to represent with the sad and lonely figure the feeling of loneliness and sadness of the artist who has discovered that so many years of study in pursuit of pure beauty are rendered useless and are overcome by the new proto romantic aesthetics of the inspired artist, who no longer works in science but looks directly to the divine light [the comet that makes the sky glow with its radiance] that inspires him and, like a miracle, transmits greatness to him.