Reading Melancholy: French Romantic Interpretations of Dürer's Engravings


Dürer's engravings, "The Knight, Death and the Devil" and "Melencolia I" are icons of the French romantic imagination. Hugo, Gautier, Michelet and Nerval transposed elements of these engravings into texts illustrating a particularly romantic form of interarts comparison; their readings are descriptive, interpretative or symbolic versions of the original. Dürer's "Melencolia I" appealed greatly to these writers because it seemed to correspond to their situation as artists. The engraving itself is auto-reflective; it presents the creative person confronting the limitations of his art. Dürer and the romantics understood that creativity is always accompanied by melancholy: disillusionment with current forms of expression, frustration before the intransigence of the materials to be transformed and nostalgia for lost time. (HFM)

Majewski, Henry F
Release Year:
1996-1997 Fall-Winter; 25(1-2): 13-29