Melencholia / by Oliver Ayrton

 Melencholia I, Albrecht Durer, 1514 (ink, paper)

Melencholia I, Albrecht Durer, 1514 (ink, paper)

This is one of my favourite images of all time. It was created by the master print-maker (and painter) Albrecht Durer, arguably the greatest Northern European artist of the Renaissance. Durer was at the peak of his powers in the 1510's when he created this masterpiece. For me, it captures the essential nature of the artist, which is a depressive, melancholic state of mind. The image is heavily laden with powerful imagery and symbolism. Can you see the hourglass representing the swift passage of Earthly time? Can you see the scales, purse and keys, and the rainbow in the background? 

I love the way that the craftsman's tools are scattered across the foreground of the image while the female figure (perhaps an angel?) slumps apathetically, with one arm supporting her head, the other holding the compass. To me this image represents the withdrawn, aloof nature of artists - oh that they could do away with the mundane necessities of terrestrial life, and rise like an angel to the heavens above! For it is only in the heavens that artist's spirit can truly soar.