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mindprint in modern art

Durer’s Melancholy expresses archetypal ambiguity

Albrecht Durer’s emblematic and allegorical engraving of Melancholia, has inspired many interpretations. Its minimalist design uses several objects, particularly scientific instruments, as ‘characters’. Esoteric multimedia artist William Blake had a print of this engraving all his life (Word and Silence 2019). Blake’s own artworks also tended to be emblematic and structuralistically minimalist (Furter 2014). Durer’s Melancholy contains only four living characters (woman, cherub, dog, bat); far fewer than eleven, and thus outside the scope of structuralist analysis (Furter 2014, 2016). But minimalist artworks such as seals, cylinder seals, stamps and jewels, express all five layers of natural and cultural structure by using some items and limb-joints, which usually express polar markers in more complex workss (Furter 2018; Stoneprint Journal 5; Culture code in seals and ring stamps).

Durer’s engraving of Melancholy expresses several general themes, as indicated by extra features of several types, attached to several types. These features also happen to be part of the optional features of several types, and thus archetypally ambiguous: rectangle of types 4 or 15g; furnace or smelt or metal of types 4, 9, 10; disc of types 9,10; building or pillar of types 1v8; school or teacher of types 3v10; laws and crafts of type 10, 11; reptile of types 3v10 or 14; canid of types 9, 10, 14 (see a similar subconscious play on ambiguity in subconscious features of Henry Holiday’s illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the snark, in a post on http://www.edmondfurter.wordpress.com). General themes in Durer’s melancholia include;

4 King; squat (here of both humans), rectangle (magic square), sun (in view), furnace (crucible).

9 Healer; pillar (here the cube, building, and city), smelt (crucible), trance (meditation).

10 Teacher; arms up (here wings), staff (here dividers), metal, disc (millstone), school (crafts).

11 Womb; womb (here the prominent woman, and the sphere), water (here a bay), law (sciences and crafts), library (crafts skills).

14 Mixer; time (here an hourglass, and Temperance), transform (alchemy), angel (two humans), reptile (bat), canid (dog).

Transitional types 2c 5c 9c and 13c Basket, is the strongest general theme here, typical of instruments (here a workshop), revelation (sciences and crafts), disc (millstone, and implied by dividers), planet (sun in view), and metal (crucible and tools).

Ambiguity is a general archetypal theme, typically expressed in emblematic artworks (as in Babylonian, Indus and Egyptian seals), and by esoteric minimalist artists. Recent revelations that Indus seals function as rebus logos for metallurgy suppliers and traders (http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com) deserve more study to examine how some writing conventions came to be used with double meanings. Below is a structuralist anthropology analysis of Durer’s Melancholy, in the standard format (Furter 2016, 2019), noting its structuralist deficiencies, mainly for replacing eyes by other focal points.

Structuralist archetype model analysis of Durer’s Melancholy, in the standard format (Furter 2016, 2019). Minimalist artworks often use items as characters.

 

Type Label; Character (archetypal features):

2 Builder; Hourglass nail on the building (tower); time as accomplisher (build) and unraveller (ruin). NO EYE.

2c Basket; Scales pan B (instrument, container, arm-link or pivot-link).

3 Queen; Scales pivot (more typical of 10 opposite 3). NO EYE.

4 King; Sun (sun). And cherub sitting (squat). He also has polar functions (see 4p and Midwinter below).

5a Priest; Bat (reptile, winged, hyperactive) with banner (sash) and tail (tailcoat head), under rainbow (colours).

5c Basket Tail; Crucible (container). And cube with tetrahedron removed. Hammer. Dog tail (tail). And lamp?

6 Exile; Dog as lamb of God (sacrifice), curled ( U-shape). Canid is more typical of 14 opposite.

7 Child; Tongs rivet ‘eye’ (eyeless). The shape is more typical of 8.

7g Gal.Centre; Planer (juncture). And saw (juncture).Mallet or inkpad? (juncture). And foot (path).

9 Healer; Divider point A (bent ‘forward’, implied disc) of steel (metal). NO EYE.

9c Basket Lid; Purse (‘lid’, reveal).

10 Teacher; Divider point B (metal, ‘arms’, ‘staff’, implied ‘disc’).

11 Womb; Woman’s midriff (womb) or Science (gestation of knowledge).

12 Heart; Woman’s chest (heart).

13c Basket Head; Woman’s head (head) with wreath (weave, tree, hat), of Science (oracle).

14 Mixer; Woman as Temperance (time, angel) or Alchemy (transform) or the vice Melancholy (passing time); near the centre (ingress).

15 Maker; Bell attachment (churn?) with a rope (rope).

15g Gate: Magic square (grid) of 34. A grid is more usual between 15 and 1, here displaced to between 14 and 15.

 

22 Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.

4p Gal.S.Pole; Boy angel’s jaw (limb joint).

11p Gal.Pole; Woman’s hip (limb joint). More often inside the outline of types.

Midsummer (cp); Woman’s jaw (limb joint).

Midwinter (csp); Boy angel’s heel (limb joint).

The solstice axle is near the horizontal plane. These markers place midsummer in types analogous to Leo-Cancer, thus spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Taurus-Aries, confirmed by the two types at top centre, expressing the central themes of time and balance. The time-frame is before the work, as usual. A Taurid time-frame is typical of alchemical works.

The analysis score is 25/68 archetypal features; 6/16 axial eye points; 13/4 c-type sector features; 4/2 g-gate sector features; 3/5 polar markers; 1/2 planar or cardinal orientations; 1/1 correlation with the Age, or Age prior to the work; 6/2 general themes; thus 59/100, minus 0 extra characters off the axial grid; total 59%, close to the general average of 60%. Some excessive scores reveal that the current formula is adequate only if the indicated ‘maxima’ are ignored; and if excesses are considered as compensation for the impossibility of full scores in other structuralist layers. Thus the current analysis scoring formula requires further refinement.

Structuralist features of expression are universal, and subconscious to artists, architects, builders, crafters and members of any culture.