Analysis: Dürer’s “Melancholia I”

German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer, painter and printmaker, created many masterful artworks, including the enigmatic “Melencholia [symbol] I,” presented in most articles and textbooks as “Melancholia I,” as if it were the first of an unfinished series and the symbol meaningless. Misunderstanding the title, and the strange banner displaying it, reflects the fact that apparently no one has interpreted the meaning of this print correctly. The title appears on the face of the work itself, exactly as Dürer intended, probably to help ensure against such tampering and loss of the associated revelatory message of the work as a whole, and yet… 

“Melencholia” (see Image File #9) is said to be Dürer’s most analyzed and controversial work, a riddle, an enigma unsolved for almost five-hundred years—which is exactly the kind of challenge PluribusOne™ Consulting seeks because it offers us further opportunity to showcase the efficacy of our proprietary Noetitek™ system. Removing all ambiguity at last, PluribusOne™ has discovered the secret meaning of this rare masterpiece. It is truly a deeply occult work with extensive esoteric knowledge ingeniously embedded throughout—a visual protest against suppression of the ego by the societal forces of his day. Fortunately, it survived the spirit of banning and burning, embers of which remain smoldering even as we write. 

Most surprising, we found no published historian or analyst who has understood the meaning or message—the elaborate and profound teaching—preserved in this amazing piece of Northern Renaissance art. Although most historians see the scene as allegorical, and we agree, the analyses have been out of sync in almost every single respect. At some point we will share all details in book form, which is necessary because our findings were so extensive and intertwined. Meanwhile, the public deserves to know at least one basic truth about this print without delay: the main figure is not a female angel, as often stated, but a disguised self-portrait. Among many other common errors is the typical numerical assessment of the tabula Iovis (magic square). 

Dürer’s genius has never been fully recognized. We look forward to sharing more. 

(See also our post: “Nine Stairs from Nowhere” that discusses another image with a ladder. There is a connection, but Dürer’s ladder has unique significance.)

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7 Responses to “Analysis: Dürer’s “Melancholia I””

  1. Sara B. Good Says:

    As Fox Mulder used to say: I want to believe. But this is a radically new interpretation. Is there something you would be willing to share that supports your assertion that the angel is a self-portrait of Durer?

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Here’s one, Sara:

    Dürer designed a coat of arms to represent himself. The design shows a small figure, taken to be another self-“portrait,” superimposed upon a pair of angel’s wings. Add to this the plain fact that Dürer made other self-portraits in the course of his continual examination of himself and his skills concurrent with his examination and developing understanding of his world. Dürer either knew or sensed that every individual is the center of an infinite universe, and to know the self is to know that universe.

    See our Image File #13.

  3. PluribusOne™ Says:

    A number of economic factors have impeded production of the book, still a work in progress. We regret the delay. Here is further information about Dürer’s “Melancholia,” starting where we left off in responding to the first comment, by Sara B. Good, and then revealing more of our core discovery:

    Our contention is that Albrecht Dürer overlaid his own image on this forlorn angel to express sympathetic identification with the angel, named Johphiel. Johphiel is the angel that students of esotericism associated with Jupiter for at least centuries. The making of magic squares dates back thousands of years. To say it another way, the intelligence of Jupiter—largest planet in our solar system—bore the name Johphiel, and certain enlightened persons have long associated their own genius with this most prominent of intelligences among planetary archetypes.

    Every Hebrew number is also a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and the name Johphiel was derived from a particular layout of numbers (when rendered in Hebrew) on the magic square known as the Table of Jupiter. The unique numerological quality of the Jupiter Table is that every row of integers: horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, yields the magic constant of 7 by adding them together and then summing the digits of each result (34=3+4=7). Further, each quadrant of the Table of Jupiter also adds to 34 and then 7, and this is true for the four central squares too.

    The magical and sacred square for Jupiter is found in writings by Magi such as the venerable Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535) and remains in use today. This table and the tables for other planets and the Sun were deemed to divulge the divine virtues inherent in the order of the heavens, the ubiquitous celestial structure. As the angel of Jupiter, Johphiel was, and is, responsible for the beneficial influences of that planet.

    However, it came to light that this well-known Table of Jupiter—top line of which is 4, 14, 15, 1—is not the only Table of Jupiter, in that there is a second way to organize the same 16 numbers and achieve the same magic constant: i.e., the number 7 at the end of each set of calculations in every direction and quadrant. To those, such as Dürer, who learned of this assemblage, it was clear that Johphiel is not the only genius inherent in Jupiter’s energetic vibration and in all else to which the planet corresponds. It is this second Table of Jupiter, this rival table with its unique “flavor,” that Dürer displayed in “Melancholia I” (Image File #43).

    Through further application of our Noetitek™ system, we see that the planet Jupiter does accommodate two primal forces of Omniverse, although the two are actually aspects of one mechanism for creational processing (as in: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”). The first aspect is better accepted because it is associated with “manifestation”—perceived as beneficial from a human viewpoint—while the second is reversed, opposite, and perceived negatively. When fully grasped, the theological implications are enormous, considering that Jupiter represents Jehovah as well as Jove, Janus, and other father-god renditions. Not surprisingly, those who gained this insight were reluctant to speak of it, and those of lesser wisdom who attempted to address it fell into the error of either-or (or evil-or) conceptualizing.

    The Jupiter revelation triggers other questions, responses to which we are not ready to give at this time.

  4. Shane. D Says:

    That is a really interesting analysis. Even with it being more geared to philosophical concepts, it made me think of some scientific facts about the planet Jupiter. It is the planet that rivals the sun, its large mass and gravity is responsible in part for the way our solar system is structured. I’m curious, besides the self portrait, is there a central or main esoteric idea being conveyed? One that, as you say, other scholars are not seeing? I understand the work has many symbols and layers of meaning, but is that all it is? A collection of deep hidden meanings in the form of symbols? Perhaps his commentary on the world of esoteric wisdom?

  5. PluribusOne™ Says:

    “Melencholia” expresses his emotional response to beginning to apprehend arcane wisdom.

    Intellectual maturation via the science of the unseen shatters limited cherished paradigms as the provincially enculturated mind expands toward a non-religious (or “cosmic religious,” to use Einstein’s term) understanding of our seemingly “interior and exterior” worlds.

    Science is, of course, an extension of philosophy. Physics is not separate from metaphysics except in universities and common practice.

  6. Gill Says:

    I found the image to be far more saturated with images of Saturn than of Jupiter. Saturn was associated with inspiration and revelation of the divine as well as artists and the melancholic temperament (The dark complexion of the angel is a physical trait associated with melancholic individuals in the humour based medical system of the time). However, at the time it was advised by Agrippa to invoke Jupiter’s positive influence using devices such as the magic square in the image to temper the negative aspects of Saturn. The Bat is a symbol of Saturn. I am interested to hear that you think the angel is male though as I have been doing some research in to its identity myself and there are far more male candidates than female.

  7. PluribusOne™ Says:


    Thank you for the astute observation and thoughtful comment.

    In my philosophy of NoetiTaoism™, discussed elsewhere in the blog, all things are of the One. Omniverse is fabricated in nine dimensions that owe their existence to the polarized Force of what can be thought of as two additional “dimensions” correspondent with Nothing and All—black and white.

    So, yes, where Jupiter is perceivable in prominence, there is always Saturn, and vice versa.

    When viewed in terms of an everlasting dilemma, the omnipresent dichotomy revealed by the Jupiter-Saturn relationship can “inspire” melancholy for mortals. But the fact that the rose has thorns is not a design error, not a flaw to be corrected. The thorn preserves the rose. No thorns, no garden.

    Truth sets one free, but knowledge is unavoidably accompanied by sorrows.


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