ISSN: 2657-800X


The time has come to put it on the cover of “The Voice of Law’; it is – after all – one of the most outstanding works of copperplate art, and many believe that it is the most brilliant graphic work in the history of art. Undoubtedly, anyone who gets acquainted with Albrecht Dürer's print – Melancholy I – created in 1514, will confirm its uniqueness. Many will see everything in it ... some will see themselves.

There are many interpretations of this work. For centuries, people have sought an inspiration, purpose and sense in it. It was interpreted in many different ways.

In Dürer's times, but also later, melancholy was considered a characteristic feature of the creator. The creator was considered to perceive the surrounding world in more detail, to see it differently, maybe even to see more than the rest. If so, they recognize imperfections, threats, errors, but also opportunities. They need a cause for further reflections…

The piece shows the mental state, emotions, and an overwhelming skepticism. However, in the background, the construction has started – the creation, the ladder and the weight – as if it was left by Temida/Iustitia. In the distance, Saturn or a comet, or maybe just the rising sun and – how mysterious – a rainbow arc... – hope, perhaps?

Above the Angel's head, the passing of time (hourglass), next to it, a bell and a mathematical table (or a magic square with an encrypted message hidden under figures and numbers) that results in so many theories. And this faithful dog. Some scattered tools around, and one of them in hands. It is a compass – a tool for designing, drawing a vision. The eyes and face of the Angel seem to reveal not only thoughtfulness, but also a creative genius.

As we know, melancholy is a state of mind, from the Greek (μελαγχολία) “black bile”, sadness, despondency; years ago, it was also a synonym for depression – in medical language. In literature, the content of the concept is different, some see it as a creative reflection, others only as sadness and depression. After Hippocrates, melancholy is associated with one of human fluids – “black bile” – which was to result in one of the four temperaments of a man, but also to determine their personality. Traditionally, the qualities of a melancholic have been faithfulness and persistence.

Dürer's masterpiece will always inspire and provoke reflection, especially when there is an uncertainty, fear, and doubts around – even when we build, when we have the tools. Is the creative reflection and thoughts on what's next not desirable then?