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Sebald Beham, Melancholia, an engraving


Height: 78.000 mm
Width: 51.000 mm

PD 1891-10-15-4 (Pauli 145)

Prints and Drawings

    Sebald Beham, Melancholia, an engraving

    Germany, signed (state II) (state III is dated AD 1539)

    The temperament associated with artistic imagination

    This little print is a much-simplified version of Dürer's masterpiece of 1514. Beham has pressed the winged figure tightly up to the frame, while filling three of its corners with his monogram, a scroll displaying the title, and the scientific instruments. The figure now shows the fuller forms and clinging drapery appreciated in High Renaissance Italy, where Sebald's younger brother Barthel had been sent 'for experience and art'. Instead of the brooding stare of Dürer's Melancholia, the same pose of head supported on one elbow reveals a sensuous young woman asleep.

    Dürer's prints had stimulated the growth of a collector's market for fine engravings. Beham, who had grown up in Nuremberg at the height of Dürer's fame, sought to exploit this demand by producing engravings in Dürer's characteristic tones of light and shadow. This print of the master's subject, with a fashionable reference to Italy, indicates his sensitivity to the tastes of his clients. Beham and his circle are sometimes called the 'Little Masters' because of the small size of the prints in which they sought to recreate Dürer's ambitious pictorial effects.

    G. Bartrum, German Renaissance prints, 149, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


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