about the iconography of melancholy

A current exhibiton in Paris (I am looking forward to its arrival to Berlin with the beginning of the next year) looks at the influence the state of melancholia had on western cultural aspects and connected assumptions like especially concerning creativity and depression. As in many cases it starts to build its relations around Dürer’s famous ‘Melancholia’ as a marker in the change of times from middle ages to the more complex understanding of Renaissance. Still it might be interessting to focus on aspects which might occur in relation to current developments.

… No mental state has so occupied the Western mind as melancholy; going to the heart of the problems that preoccupy us today – from history to philosophy, from medicine to psychiatry, from religion to theology, from literature to art.

Melancholy, traditionally the cause of suffering and folly has also, since antiquity, been considered one of the elements in the temperaments of those marked for greatness, in our heroes and geniuses. Its description as a sacred illness implies a certain duality and melancholy is still mysterious even though today, with its new name of depression, there is a medico-scientific approach to it. The iconography of melancholy is extraordinarily rich and it is therefore not surprising that it is history of art that has been in the forefront of the establishment of a new approach to the cultural history of this saturnine malaise. …

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4 thoughts on “about the iconography of melancholy

  1. Sound very promissing, indeed, i went to the link about the the exhibition, but couldn’t find any references to the artist and art that will be presented, do you have any idea about the items?

  2. I have been seeing an review on arte TV on it, but agree also their website does not give much further information.
    I recall from the report that Dürer’s famous ‘Melancholia’ is taken as a center piece, to which also other artists like Giacometti refer again. The few names listed on the website just list the most common ones: From Attic stele to contemporary works, from Dürer to Ron Mueck via La Tour, Füssli, Goya, Friedrich, Delacroix, Rodin, Van Gogh, Munch, De Chirico, Picasso and others this exhibition emphasises the vital role played by melancholy on the different forms of artistic creation throughout Europe.
    What got me interested when I saw that arte report was an interview with the curator in which he gave a description of his interest in melancoly as both a creative (positive) force, but as well as a stimulance for depression. Relating to the dependence those two energies develope he described his curiosity into that ambivalent stimulance through some examples like Goya, Artaud, .. (thus across the fields) without just adding it as a myths of an artist’s legend. He also pointed out that he recently feels a certain revival returning for that sentiment in contrary to the merily positively oriented period when they started to design the project 5 years ago.
    These are my reasons to look forward and get some deeper understanding for their research work. Nevertheless I agree there is not much online material at the moment and I also still fear a bit that melancholia might be just turned again into the romantic sentiment where it had to reside most of the time.
    … so further links welcome .. ( I also will look and post)

  3. Isn’t melancholia, related to the romantic craving of us human any way? they are boned to each other, how can you differ them? and why? how can you define melancolia differently? i wonder? but, we can make our own reasearch about this topic, lets try to find art works that can be suitible

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