28 January 2009

Melencolia I

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news, readers. It’s likely I won’t have time to do a post on any of the wonderful Saints we’ll be remembering tomorrow. If you’re interested, had I the time I would likely have posted on one or more of the following: Venerable Romilos, monk of Mt Athos and Ravanica (Serbia) (1375), disciple of St Gregory of Sinai; St Honoratus, archbishop of Arles and founder of Lérins Monastery (429); St Sigebert, king of the East Angles, martyr (635); and St Fursey of Burgh Castle, enlightener of East Anglia and Langy (650). I will try to make it up with a lengthy and (hopefully) diverting post which I’ve already written on a non-menological topic. I will also, God willing, devote extra attention tomorrow night to St Anthony the Great, about whom I hope to point out one or two interesting things. Finally, and I don’t want to make too many promises here, I would like still to track down a thing or two about one or the other of the above Saints and cook up something this weekend (admittedly, after the fact). But we’ll see whether there will be time for that or not. In the meantime, look for a post on something a bit less hagiographical.

By the way, for the unenlightened, the engraving above is Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Melencolia I’ (1514). Here is what Dame Frances Yates has to say about it in her riveting book, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 63:

It must be one of a series, the first of the series described by Agrippa [who refers to three kinds of ‘melancholy’], concerned with imagination, and the inspiration of painters, architects, and masters in other arts. In fact we see in the engraving the tools, the geometric figures, alluding to the traditional ‘occupations of Saturn’, his skills in number and measurement, but transmuted in the atmosphere of inspired melancholy to becoming the instruments of inspired artistic genius. The only actual figure in the engraving is the putto, and he appears to hold an engraver’s tool.

I've been fascinated with Dürer's art since I was a wee lad. Anyway, somehow it seemed appropriate for this post.

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