Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cherub = The Blissful Graduate Student

Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514

I'm getting ready for an activity in tomorrow's class: we're going to explore the historiography of arguments surrounding Durer's enigmatic Melencolia I engraving (shown above). Perhaps one day I'll outline some of the arguments on Alberti's Window. For now, though, I wanted to post a very amusing, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the winged child (in the center of the composition) and the large seated figure:

"The staring winged figure, compass listlessly in hand, has come upon a problem that exceeds her angelic strength, perhaps in string theory, and she is peevish; behind her a small graduate student, unaware of the deep difficulties that has stumped his Doktormutter, scribbles away blissfully at his dissertation."1

Ha ha!

1 John L. Heilbron, "A Short History of Light in the Western World," from Visions of Discovery: New Light on Physics, Cosmology and Consciousness, edited by Raymond Y. Chiao et al., (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 8-9. Citation available online here.