Although the title indentifies the subject as melancholy, the means by which Dürer demonstrates this emotional state is complex, making Melencolia I the most analyzed and discussed of Dürer’s works.
Dürer personifies melancholy as a formidable female-her power originates in her ability to alter a man’s temperament into a melancholic state. Immobilized by her lack of creativity, the winged goddess sits dispiritedly surrounded by the tools and instruments she has lost the inspiration to use. Among intellectuals, melancholy was often associated with introspective, educated people, even genius. Since artists were especially prone to melancholy, this image has been interpreted as Dürer’s spiritual self-portrait, implying that the artist identified with her creative plight.