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A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.


c. 1615


Domenico Fetti
Italian, about 1591/2-1623

About this artwork

In this elaborate allegory of the universal human emotion of melancholy, the paintbrushes, palette, and small sculpture in the bottom right reference the painter’s profession, and the hourglass, book, and compass speak to other worldly pursuits. Domenico Fetti also included an armillary sphere and telescope in the background on the left to reflect the scientific interests of the Mantuan court of his patron Ferdinando Gonzaga. These interests are further exemplified by the large, bluish sphere in the foreground illustrating the topography of the moon as had been observed only recently by Galileo. Yet the figure of Melancholia contemplates a skull: despite the achievements signified by the objects around her, their earthly value is fleeting, and death is unavoidable.


On View, Gallery 211


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Domenico Fetti




Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

c. 1610–1620


Oil on canvas


149.5 × 113 cm (58 7/8 × 44 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior bequest of Joseph Winterbotham

Reference Number


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