To portray melancholy, Albrecht Dürer engraved a bowed figure whose abstracted concentration contrasts with the proliferation of objects around her. In this way, it appears that the mystery she is contemplating is precisely that of her connection with things, which remain extraneous as she turns her gaze elsewhere. In fact, for both Aby Warburg and Walter Benjamin, Dürer's Melencolia I refers to the issue of the image, conceived not as a specific form, work of art or philosophic representation, but as the site of a sense that yields itself only in its material configuration. Thus the space of melancholy is shifted from the subject to that borderland, of continuous intersection between the self and external reality, between the interior and the world, that is the image – conceived as a concrete and reciprocal configuration of both. Meditation on the same restores to melancholy its contradictory character, the unity of destruction and construction attributed to it by Aristotlean tradition, and which modernity, identifying it with an Ego that is depressively worldless, or counter to the world, largely deprives it of.
in the Catalogue