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Melencolia or the Saturnine nature of the Artist catalogue

Published: 20.10.2022
Melencolia or the Saturnine nature of the Artist catalogue.
Nichka Marobin
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Barcelona
Edited on:
2022
Technical data:
18 x 20 cm. 64 p. Ilustrated
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Intro
MELENCOLIA or the Saturnine nature of the Artists is a catalogue of the exhibition with the same title.
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.

When I was young, I craved variety and novelty; now, in my old age, I have begun to see the native countenance of nature [naturae nativam faciem] and come to understand that  this simplicity is the ultimate goal of art. - Albrecht Dürer in a letter to Philip Melanchton [1]
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 or 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 […] Those who were “born under Saturn”, 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.

Taking 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 an important question in this specific context: is jewellery art?

Are all the artists governed by Saturn? Are they all melancholics? And if yes, how does it come that they pre-feel events before they happen? This status of “seismographs” is it due to their quick, sharp sensitivity or is it just because they look around more often than common people usually do perceiving and widening their own view?

As a Denkbild, a depiction of a thought, Dürer’s master engraving of “Melencolia § I” stands at the verge of two worlds: the “written” one, both tangible and visible, made of crispy contours, formidable light effects, mesmerising chiaroscuro in a perfect balance of form, technique and concept; the “unwritten” one made of pure abstraction as enigmatic as mysteriously fascinating.

As a sensitive observer, Mitchell Merback writes that Dürer's Melencolia is “a portrait of the creative endeavour poised between inspired breakthrough and  demoralizing breakdown”. [2]

As a result, the fascination lies in limine: in that combination between a private, personal status and a collective one; in the synthesis between the ancient acedia (spiritual sloth) and the generous Tristia ] [3] (spiritual sadness); in the balance between Jupiter and Saturn; in the allegorical depiction of the difficulties and the developing of the creative process, common to all artists and yet with a particular outcome that differs from one another. It is something that has to be related to Temperance, to measure, to a balance; it is something that stands simultaneously in a perfect equilibrium between synthesis and commencement.

In our specific case, the one of contemporary jewellery, this enigmatic fascination resides in jewellers’ works, who were asked to give a tangible presence to an abstracted (and physical/intellectual) status and concept such as melancholy.

How all the artists involved in this exhibition project perceived Dürer’s work and its message is the result of the next pages, by providing three series of repertoires that illustrate, condense, meditate and intellectualise the depth of a specific moment.
 
Nichka Marobin
Texts from the exhibition catalogue of “MELENCOLIA or The Saturnine nature of The Artist”
 


Notes:


[1] Dürer’s letter to Philip Melanchton  in E. PANOFSKY, The Art and Life[ of Albrecht Dürer, 1955, p. 230.
[2] M. B. MERBACK, Perfection’s Therapy. An essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, Zone Books, p. 10.
[3] M. B. MERBACK, Perfection’s Therapy. An essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, Zone Books, 2017, p. 14.
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