Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Albrecht Dürer's Melencolia I

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(9):874. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.108.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


As psychopathology, melancholy refers to a deep and enduring depression, a sense of profound and painful emptiness that is relentless and cannot be long endured. Untreated melancholic depression may result in suicide. Yet, in common parlance, melancholy may refer to a passing state of mind, sometimes emotionally painful and at other times a pensive or nostalgic state of mind. Metaphorically, it is a dark feeling that may be projected onto the night or the seasons, the melancholic months of winter, or on a place where a tragedy occurred. Yet its etymology is more ancient. Melancholy is derived from melanos and khole —black bile, a secretion of the spleen and one of the body's 4 humors (blood, phlegm, choler [or yellow bile], and melancholy [or black bile]) recognized by Hippocrates (460-370 BCE). Such qualities were linked to the 4 elements: earth, water, fire, and air. In antiquity, the humors corresponded to the cosmic elements and divisions of time. The humors, according to how they were combined, controlled one's existence and behavior and defined one's character.1 Saturn held sway over the realm of melancholy, of the mind that contemplates and investigates; the mood engendered was saturnine.

Figures in this Article


Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview


Place holder to copy figure label and caption

Graphic Jump LocationImage not available.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), German. Melencolia I, 1514. Engraving, 24 × 18.8 cm (9.4 × 7.4 in). Private collection/The Bridgeman Art Library.




Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).
Submit a Comment


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Related Topics