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.

Email Subscription

An email notification will be sent whenever a new post appears on this site.
Email *



This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.