Subject: Picture Talk • Group: Art • Class III • Time: 25 minutes
By F. W. Young
The Parents’ Review, 1906, pp. 498-499
I. To help the girls to appreciate art.
II. To increase their power of observation.
III. To give special interest in the works of Albrecht Dürer.
Step I.—Give a short life of Albrecht Dürer, noticing his characteristic style.
Step II.—Show the girls a reproduction of “Melancholia.” Let them look at it carefully for a few minutes, and after removing the picture ask them to describe what they saw.
Step III.—Draw from the girls as far as possible the symbolical meaning of the picture. The woman sitting down looking into the untold distance, probably typifies the insufficiency of mortals to attain to heavenly wisdom and penetrate Nature’s secrets.
The objects surrounding her infer her great desire for knowledge. Scientific instruments of all kinds lie scattered around her; in her hand she holds a pair of compasses; a sphere lies on the ground before her; a plane, a saw, a pair of tongs lie at her feet, a crucible is being heated at a little distance. These are all legitimate instruments of knowledge, but there are others which speak of magic and superstition. The astrological table in which the rows of figures, whichever way they are added up, amount to thirty-four, probably had some mystical signification.
A huge block, cut at curious angles, stands before her; this is probably not ordinary stone, as is often thought, but a rock of crystal made use of by wizards in foretelling events. Into the depths of this crystal the woman has probably long been gazing, but these illegal instruments have failed to satisfy her longing for knowledge.
The winged child, sitting by her side, may represent the human soul, or, possibly, the god of love, who receives no response from “Melancholia.”
The landscape adds to the weird and solemn effect of the picture. The light which falls on the sea and shore is neither that of the sun, nor the moon, but of some great comet burning in solitary glow in the sky, betokening disaster and woe. The rainbow, contrary to science, is probably placed there to give more effect. The bat holds a scroll on which is written “Melancholia I.”; the artist may have intended to design a series of pictures on the Four Temperaments.
Step IV.—Let one pupil draw the chief lines of the picture on the blackboard, and the other the details, such as the bell, the astrological table, the keys, compasses and rainbow.
Step V.—Show other reproductions of Dürer’s works.