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.
- Domenico Fetti
- Italy (Artist's nationality)
- c. 1610–1620
- Oil on canvas
- 149.5 × 113 cm (58 7/8 × 44 1/2 in.)
- Through prior bequest of Joseph Winterbotham