On his extended travels to Venice and Bologna, Albrecht Dϋrer studied humanist philosophy and the art of the Italian Renaissance, and he incorporated what he learned into his graphic production. In Melencolia I, an angel personifing “genius” is seated among symbols of creative activity in architecture, astronomy, carpentry, geometry, mathematics, and metallurgy. The angel appears to have fallen into a mournful gloom from which her vaunted imagination cannot raise her. Here, Dürer suggests that the spark of creativity can be stymied by melancholy, like a lead weight on the wings of inspiration.
While only a limited number of copies of this print exist due to the limitations of the copperplate printing process, the Albright-Knox holds two impressions in its collection. Both works were gifts: this one by Willis O. Chapin in 1891 and another by Frederic P. Norton in 1999.
Label from Albrecht Dϋrer: Highlights from the Collection, May 2, 2014–July 6, 2014