MELENCOLIA OR THE SATURNINE NATURE OF THE ARTIST - 21 Sep 2022 - 21 Oct 2022
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Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist
Four artists and nine pieces of jewellery celebrating and investigating one of the most enigmatic and fascinating works in the history of Western Arts: the “Melencolia I” engraving by Albrecht Dürer.

Conceived as a second step of an ideal cycle that links past and present and which started with “The Alchemical Egg” in 2017, “Melencolia or The Saturnine nature of the Artist” is a project related to the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and specifically to his engraving “Melencolia I” (1514). Thus, the four Artist -jewellers involved in this project have been invited to create their own works inspired by the theme of “Melencolia I” as a meditation about this vague, indefinite, unclear and yet insuppressible feeling, and about the role and the nature of the artist himself.

The exhibition project is curated by Nichka Marobin, in collaboration with Hannah Gallery by Klimt02.

***

Was aber Schönheit sei, daß weiß ich nicht”
(But what beauty may be, that I know not)[1]
 
At the top of his artistic career (1506-1514)[2], Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is no longer a simple craftsman, but an artist who is now not only a Humanist but also an intellectual and wealthy man. He masters equally painting, engraving and woodcutting: his technical and formal solutions and skills on painting, watercolours and engraving are great; by this time, he starts writing essays and texts (in German) that could give to German artists and craftsmen a solid theoretical basis of their practical skills to their activity.[3] Thanks to his close friendship with the Humanist Pirckheimer[4], Dürer starts his own path as a committed intellectual.
 
However, precisely at this time of serenity and fertile artistic creativity and just a few years before the storm of Reformation, Dürer reached the awareness of the limits of Art and at that moment he writes “Was aber Schönheit sei, daß weiß ich nicht” (But what beauty may be, that I know not).[5]
He is fully aware of the inner contrasts of his own time; of the divergence between the ideals of Humanism and reality. He keeps on looking and studying a mathematical canon of proportion to describe Beauty, but without success; at the same time, he is fully conscious of the striking conflicts between the myth of the Humanistic concept of the “man as a measure of all things” and the increasing religious discomfort. He is always careful and accurate about what surrounds him and, exactly during the years from 1513-1514, he creates the corpus of the three great engravings called Meisterstiche (Master Engravings).
 
The “Master Engravings” that are “The Knight, the Death and The Devil” (1513), “St. Jerome in his Studio” (1514) and “Melencolia I” (1514) form a unique corpus of works bound together by similar size, as an ideal triptych symbolizing the vita activa (active life – The Knight), the vita contemplativa (contemplative life – St. Jerome) and a different alternative to life depicted by Melencolia I (art?).
Upon looking to three works, it seems that Dürer finds three ways for the salvation of men’s soul: the moral one symbolized by the Knight; the religious one embodied by St. Jerome and the intellectual one portrayed by Melencolia I.[6]
 
***

But how can one define melancholy? Is it a malaise or a feeling? And what kind of feeling is it? Is it for a brief moment of for an entire life? Is this a temperament or rather a disposition of the soul? Is it perhaps a state of mind? Or is it an illness? Whether vague, unclear and yet relentlessly present and real in his objective intangibility, this feeling has been part of ourselves for centuries. From the Ancient times melancholy was associated to the theory of humors and specifically to the black bile[7], and during Medieval and Renaissance times it has been ascribed to that temper typical of artists and poets. Those who were “born under Saturn”[8], in fact, were characterized by eccentricity, love for solitude and irritability. The Saturnine temper of the artist evokes those non-aligned conducts enriched by an uncommon sensitivity, as well as uncommon intellectual capacities not easily ascribed to ordinary people.
 
However, whether multiple the definitions might be, melancholy acts like a lens, both as a microscope and as a telescope: particular, subjective and yet, at the same time, universal.
And, if the culmination of Dürer’s artistic maturity coincides with this Master Engraving and with the pivotal question about Beauty, we can assume also that he was questioning himself about the awareness of being an artist and the nature of the artist himself.
Making a step back and meditating on Dürer’s question about what Beauty really is, several questions arise: what is the difference between a work of high craftsmanship and Art? What makes you recognize a work of Art instead of a good piece of jewellery? How do we detect quality in a piece of jewellery?
When does quality become art?
When a craftsman is no longer an artisan, but an artist? The awareness of the status of the artist is suitable for jewellers and for makers?
And far and foremost important question in this specific context: is jewellery art? 

***

Looking at Dürer’s life, a special thread links his life events to goldsmiths: his father first of all, his apprenticeship, his first journey to Basel hosted by the brother of Martin Schongauer, a goldsmith too; in the Netherlands where he is honoured as a great artist. This gold thread presides over his entire artistic life, granting him the preciousness of his engravings; the preciseness of his signs; the peculiarity of the chiaroscuro of his all prints.
After more than five centuries, Dürer’s “Melencolia I” releases an incredible yet magical spell, not only under the technical aspect, but above all for its fascinating subject.
If according to Erwin Panofsky -in his still unsurpassed biography- this work represents the saturnine nature of the artist and a spiritual portrait of that “melancholic mood” and temperament typical of all artists[9], there have been numerous interpretations of this subject along the years.
Nonetheless, whether we consider the different interpretations provided by the scholars along the years on “Melencolia I”, the tools, the magic square, the winged figure, the child, all this landscape which stands in front of our eyes is filled with esoteric, mathematical, philosophical references bound together as a symbolic enigma endlessly ready to be decoded, interpreted and meditated by the artists goldsmiths invited in this exhibition project, as an homage to Albrecht Dürer, the son of a goldsmith.
 
Squaring the width of a circle, his art was built to last”.[10]
 
Nichka Marobin, Exhibition curator
This text is an excerpt of the exhibition catalogue.



Notes:
 
[1] See RUPPRICH, H. (ed.), Schriftlicher Nachlass, 3 voll. Berlin 1956-1959: II, 1966, pp. 100 (30-35) as quoted by KORENY, F., Dürer: L’uomo e la natura in Dürer e l’Italia, exhibition catalogue edited by Kristina Herrmann Fiore, Roma, Scuderie del Quirinale 10 marzo – 10 giugno 2007, Mondadori, Milano 2007, pp. 187-190.
[2] See PANOFSKY, E., The life and art of Albrecht Dürer, Princeton University Press, 1955 (tr.it. Erwin Panofsky, La vita e le opere di Albrecht Dürer, 2006).
[3] For Albrecht Dürer as a writer and essayist see: PANOFSKY, op. cit., 1955, pp. 242-284 and CASTELNUOVO, E., Dürer scrittore e scienziato in Dürer e l’Italia, op. cit.; see also KORENY at note n. 1.
[4] Willlibald Pirckheimer (1470-1530): lawyer, Humanist, patron of arts and long-life friend of Albrecht Dürer.
[5] See note n.1.
[6]See PANOFSKY, E., Op. Cit., 1955, pp. 151-171.
An interesting link between Occult philosophy and melancholy is provided also by YATES, F.A., Occult Philosophy and melancholy: Dürer and Agrippa in The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, 1979 (tr. It. YATES, F.A., La filosofia occulta e la melanconia: Dürer e Agrippa in Cabbala e occultismo nell’età elisabettiana, pp. 63-77 Torino, Einaudi 2002).
[7] For a comprehensive study of the melancholy related to Natural Philosophy see:
PANOFSKY, E., - SAXL, F., Dürer’s <>. Eine quellen- und typengeschichtliche Untersuchung, 1923 (tr. It. PANOFSKY, E., - SAXL, F., La <> di Dürer. Una ricerca storica sulle fonti e i tipi figurativi, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2018);
 Klibansky R. – Panofsky, E. – Saxl, F., Saturn and Melancholy. Studies in the history of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art, London, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, 1964 (tr. It. Raymond Klibansky – Erwin Panofsky – Fritz Saxl, Saturno e la Melanconia. Studi su storia della filosofia naturale, medicina, religione, arte, Torino, Einaudi, 2002)
For the remedies to melancholy, see Burton, R., Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), consulted edition (tr. It. Burton, R., Anatomia della Malinconia con una introduzione di Jean Starobinski, Milano, Feltrinelli 2020).
As regards Robert Burton, I suggest the exhibition “Melancholy: A new Anatomy”, Oxford, Treasury, Weston Library, 29 September 2021 – 20 March 2022, exhibition curated by: Dr Kathryn Murphy, Professor John Geddes, Dr Richard Lawes , Simon D. Kyle, Stephen Puntis , Gulamabbas Lakha, Dr Kate Saunders, Dr Phil Burnet, Joseph Butler.
See more at this web link: https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/event/melancholy-new-anatomy (last check 10.03.2022).
An interesting new perspective on Dürer’s “Melencolia I” is provided by Mitchell B. Merback, Perfection’s Therapy. An essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, 2017, Zone Books.
[8] As regards see: Wittkower, M. and R., Born Under Saturn, London 1963 (tr. It. Wittkower, M. and R., Nati sotto Saturno. La figura dell’artista dall’Antichità alla Rivoluzione francese, Einaudi, 1968, pp. 112-123);
 
[9] See note n. 6.
[10] Hoare, Ph., Albert and the whale, 4thEstate, Harper Collins Publishers, 2021, p. 42.

 

JEWELS by MELENCOLIA OR THE SATURNINE NATURE OF THE ARTIST

 Dimension 2,31  by Iris Bodemer
Iris Bodemer.
Pendant: Dimension 2,31, 2021.
Copper, kevlar, thermoplastic.
20.5 x 7 x 0.4 cm, 10 x 7 x 4 cm Standing.
Photo by: Nicole Eberwein.
Price: 2000 €.

This pendant is more 2d than 3d – something in between. Inspiration for all works: fractal dimensions. The copper etching, could be printed like Dürers Melencolia.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022
.
 Dimension 2,86  by Iris Bodemer
Iris Bodemer.
Pendant: Dimension 2,86, 2021.
Thermoplastic, steel.
28 x 14 x 4.5 cm.
Photo by: Nicole Eberwein.
Price: 1600 €.

This pendant tends to be 3d, coming up of 2d by wearing

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Dimension 3,47  by Iris Bodemer
Iris Bodemer.
Pendant: Dimension 3,47, 2021.
Aluminum, tourmaline, pyrite, prasiolite, mounting adhesive, steel, thermoplastic.
9.5 x 9 x 7 cm.
Photo by: Nicole Eberwein.
Price: 3000 €.

This pendant is obviously 3d tending to the higher dimension, inspiration Marcel Duchamp's "bottle dryer", a 3d-object as the shadow of the 4th dimension, how could this higher dimension look like?
 
Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Equilibri #1  by Gigi Mariani
Gigi Mariani.
Brooch: Equilibri #1, 2021.
Silver, Gold.
4 x 4 x 4 cm.
Photo by: Paolo Terzi.
Price: 1800 €.
Silver, 18kt yellow gold, niello, steel
.
Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Equilibri #2  by Gigi Mariani
Gigi Mariani.
Brooch: Equilibri #2, 2021.
Silver, 18kt yellow gold, niello, steel.
4 x 4 x 4 cm.
Photo by: Paolo Terzi.
Price: 1800 €.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Equilibri #3  by Gigi Mariani
Gigi Mariani.
Brooch: Equilibri #3, 2021.
Silver, niello, steel.
4 x 4 x 4 cm.
Photo by: Paolo Terzi.
Price: 1600 €.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Respiro I  by Yoko Takirai, Pietro Pellitteri
Yoko Takirai; Pietro Pellitteri.
Brooch: Respiro I, 2022.
Silver 925 and hand-hammered micro stainless steel mesh.
7 x 7 x 2 cm.
Price: 1100 €.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Respiro II  by Yoko Takirai, Pietro Pellitteri
Yoko Takirai; Pietro Pellitteri.
Brooch: Respiro II, 2022.
Silver 925 and hand-hammered micro stainless steel mesh.
7 x 7 x 2 cm.
Price: 1100 €.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.
 Respiro III  by Yoko Takirai, Pietro Pelletteri
Yoko Takirai; Pietro Pelletteri.
Brooch: Respiro III, 2022.
Silver 925 and hand-hammered micro stainless steel mesh.
7 x 7 x 1.5 cm.
Price: 1100 €.

Work designed for Hannah Gallery for the exhibition Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist in 2022.

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