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print study / drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Two studies for the child genius in the engraving 'Melancholy'; head turned to half-right, seen from above. 1514 Pen and brown ink

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1514
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 273 millimetres
    • Width: 172 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Rowlands 1993
        Inscribed by the artist in pen and brown ink to the right of the heads, “1514” with his monogram
  • Curator's comments

    These studies are for the head of the child genius in Dürer's famous engraving of 1514, 'Melancholia' (Meder 75). A further study for the engraving, a small, freely sketched winged putto with a quadrant and a plumb (London, British Library, Sloane 5229 fol. 60 ; Strauss 1514/25 ) is inscribed by Dürer: 'keys mean power, purse means wealth' (Schlüssel - gewalt / pewtell - reichtum / beteut ) Keys and a purse are traditional symbols of melancholy as well as of the god Saturn who controlled the melancholic condition, so Dürer's inscription indicates his train of thought in giving these objects a prominent position on the figure in his print, even though neither keys nor a purse appear in the sketch. Five further drawings by Dürer are connected with the preparation of this print: ‘A Study of a stout woman on a bench’ (Winkler, ‘Dürer’, iii, pl. 621), used as a point of departure for the figure of Melancholy, and a sheet with studies for the pair of scales (Winkler, ‘Dürer’, iii, pl. 620) are both in Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett. A drawing for the geometrical solid body, ‘Truncated cube on a base’, is in the so-called 'Dresden Sketchbook', on fol. 183 verso (Bruck, pl. 131); on another sheet in the same album, fol. 171 verso (Bruck, pl. 134), is a drawing of a pair of dividers, and of a moulder's form, differing, however, in shape from that in the engraving; a study of a container, according to the Tietzes possibly a portable inkwell, is to be found on fol. 189 (Bruck, pl. 155). There is also a drawing of the sleeping dog, in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (Winkler, ‘Dürer’, iii, app. pl. xv) which is a copy of a lost preparatory drawing for the animal in the engraving. A drawn copy of the present drawing, dated 1523, is in the Louvre, Paris (F. Winkler, ‘Prussian Jahrbuch’, liii, 1932, p. 73, repr.).

    Lit. from J.Rowlands 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German- speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and andDrawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no.190: 'Waagen, Treasures, i, p. 229, no. 39; Hausmann, Naumann's Archiv, p. 36, no. 39; Hausmann, p. 107, no. 39; Ephrussi, p. 182; Lippmann, part xxiii, p. 9, no. 249, repr.; M. Zucker, Repertorium, xxi, 1898, p. 375; Dürer Society, vii, 1904, vi, p. 9; Conway, p. 32, no. 562; Pauli, p. 25, no. 696; BM Guide, 1928, p. 44, no. 410; Flechsig, Dürer, ii, p. 326; Tietze, ii, p. 95, no. 584, repr.; Winkler, Dürer, iii, p. 62, no. 619, repr.; Panofsky, ii, p. 120, no. 1203; Rowlands, Dürer, p. 30; Strauss, iii, p. 1440, no. 1514/24, repr.'

    Additional lit: M.Mende in 'Albrecht Dürer. Das druckgraphische Werk' Band I, 'Kupferstiche, Eisenradierungen und Kaltnadelblätter' Munich, 2001, p.182, under no. 71; G.Bartrum, 'Dürer and his Legacy' exhibition catalogue, London BM, 2002, no. 129


  • Bibliography

    • Strauss 1974 1514/24 bibliographic details
    • Rowlands 1993 190 bibliographic details
    • Winkler 1936-9 619 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (German Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1928 BM London, Guide Woodcuts, Drawings of A. Dürer, no. 410
    1971 BM, Dürer no.186 2002/3 Dec-Mar, BM, Dürer and his Legacy, no. 129
    2007 Apr-Jul, London, BM, Selection from Dürer gift book
    2014 Feb-May, London, National Gallery, 'Strange Beauty'

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • C,07.39
Two studies for the child genius in the engraving 'Melancholy'; head turned to half-r, seen from above. 1514 Pen and brown ink

Two studies for the child genius in the engraving 'Melancholy'; head turned to half-r, seen from above. 1514 Pen and brown ink

Image description



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