February 21, 2007


Between October 13th ’05 and January 16th ’06, an exhibition was staged at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais in Paris entitled Mélancolie: Génie et folie en Occident (‘Melancholy: Genius and Madness in the West’). As well as the exhibition catalogue itself, a hefty, richly-illustrated volume containing numerous essays, at least one other book was published to coincide with this exhibition: Mélancolies; Livre d’images, a compilation of related imagery edited by Maxime Préaud, curator of the département des Estampes at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Detail from 'Melancolicus,' engraving (ca. 1550) by Virgil Solis.


Detail from 'Melencolia,' engraving (1539) by Hans Sebald Beham.

Apart from the first image above, one of a series of four engravings by the German printmaker Virgil Solis (1514-62) representing ‘the four temperaments,’ which was lifted from the exhibition catalogue, the present details are of scans from Préaud’s livre d’images. The second image above, Melencolia, was the work of another German engraver, Hans Sebald Beham (ca. 1500-50). Dürer’s famous 1514 print Melencolia I was likely the prototype for both of these engravings.

Detail from 'Amymone Changed into a Fountain,' an engraving by Girolamo Mocetto (early 16th C.)


Detail from 'The Man Claoked with Malice,' an etching by Abraham Bosse, ca. 1630.

As well as personifications of the melancholic humour, Préaud’s book also includes sections on depictions of the dejected Christ; on Death, and the Devil; on Love-Melancholy and Art-Melancholy; meanwhile touching on the related concepts of acedia, desidia (or sloth), ennui, and the saturnine. The pair of details above are from, respectively: ‘Amymone Changed into a Fountain,’ an engraving by the painter and printmaker Girolamo Mocetto (ca. 1458-1531); and ‘The Man Cloaked in Malice,’ an etching (ca. 1630) by Abraham Bosse.

Detail from 'Guillot the Dreamer,' an engraving by an unknown French printmaker, 17th C.


Detail from 'Philosophy,' an etching by Sébastien Leclerc, 1707.

The details above are taken from ‘Guillot the Dreamer,’ a 17th-Century engraving by an unknown French printmaker; and ‘Philosophy’ an etching made in 1707 by Sébastien Leclerc (1637-1714). The first of the details below is another anonymous French print, and etching this time, after Georges de la Tour’s painting ‘The Penitent Magdalen.’ Lastly, the final image shows part of an etching by Henri-Simon Thomassin (1687-1741) after Domenico Fetti’s 1622 canvas ‘Melancholy.’

Detail from an etching by an anonymous printmaker (late 17th C.) after a painting by Georges de la Tour.


Detail from 'Melancholy,' an etching by Henri-Simon Thomassin (1729) after a painting by Domenico Fetti.

Préaud’s book also contains several images I’ve posted here before: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione’s Melancholy; Saturn as Melancholy by Zacharias Dolendo (after Jacques de Gheyn); Giulio Campagnola’s Saturn; Serpent Speaking to a Young Man by Marcantonio Raimondi; Rodolphe Bresdin’s La Comédie de la mort; and Salvator Rosa’s Democritus.

Posted by misteraitch at February 21, 2007 11:00 PM

The cumulative effect of these images is rather touching, isn't it? I'm reminded of the 1964 Warburg classic Saturn and Melancholy, recommended reading.

Posted by: Conrad on February 22, 2007 12:45 PM

cool! we´ll be waiting for the other "temperaments", rsss

great post!

Posted by: catatau on February 22, 2007 09:18 PM

Thanks for this.
Not particularly on-topic but your mentioning Marcantonio Raimondi brought to mind a book I just came across that might be up your alley: 'Raphael, Dürer, and Marcantonio Raimondi Copying and the Italian Renaissance Print', 2004 by Lisa Pon.

Posted by: peacay on February 24, 2007 07:25 AM

Hah! I opened this page while resting my head in my hand in the exact same position the images depict. If I have been guilty of melancholic acedia this morning, this post startled me into sitting up for a while >:}

Posted by: helion on February 25, 2007 09:35 AM


I picked up the Bosse engraving, reversed, off EEBO as by Wencelaus Hollar: your man seems to be the real source. In re-engraving something has happened: in the Bosse, the ladies all sport a curious little mat on their heads, Hollar didn't see the allusion, and gave them all hats. The engraving was saying something more subtle than the twist Killigrew gave it.
Admire your work throughout this blog, by the way.

Posted by: Dr Roy Booth on April 4, 2007 08:51 PM
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