Mario Sironi, Solitude, 1922-24, oil on canvas, Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderne.  Wikiart.org.  Compare Degas, ​Melancholy, 1874, above.

Eugène Delacroix, The Death of Sarandapalus, 1827.Louvre and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Paris and Philadelphia.  Wikimedia Commons: Sardanapalus had ordered his possessions destroyed and concubines murdered before immolating himself, once he learned that he was faced with military defeat.

Edward Le Bas (1904-1966) Saloon Bar 1940. Melancholy or bored?  Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05334 .  It looks like her two companions (see the two waiting drinks) have gone to play darts leaving the woman alone.  That's when the man to her rear starts flirting.  She seems bored to be left alone and bored by the man's advances.  I'd go for boredom here.

Paulus Bor, The Disillusioned Medea ("The Enchantress"), c.1640. Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Thanks to Andrea Bailey. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435713

Marc Chagall, Solitude​, 1933, Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, Israel.  WikiArt.org.   Compare "Music as a remedy for melancholy" above.

Artist Unknown, Portrait of Ekaterina Demidova (1783-1830), c.1825, Alexander Pushkin's Museum (Prechistenka).   Wikimedia Commons. Boredom or melancholy? Mathematics and geometry are replaced by music.  The violin suggests melancholy. Compare Tadeusz Pruszkowski below. See Peter Toohey, Psychology Today, August 6, 2015.  Compare "Music as a remedy for melancholy" above.

Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I,  1514. Art Gallery of South Australia.  Wikimedia Commons.  Illustration in Peter Toohey Boredom, 2011.

Paul Gauguin, Faaturuma​, 1891, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Wikimedia Commons.  The title of the painting is often said to mean "melancholic" or "brooding" or "dejected".  The next painting has approximately the same title.

Paul Gauguin, The Poor Fisherman​, 1896, São Paulo Museum of Art.  Wikimedia Commons.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Melancholia​, 1532, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.  Wikimedia Commons.  Illustration 20 in Peter Toohey, Boredom​, 2011.

Arnold Boecklin, Odysseus and Calypso​, 1883, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.  WikiArt.org

Frederic Leighton, Solitude, 1890, Maryhill Museum of Art, Maryhill, Washington, USA. Wiki.Art.org.  See Peter Toohey, Psychology Today, August 6, 2015

Edvard Munch, Melancholy (1892).  Illustration 38 in Peter Toohey, Jealousy (2014). The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design  Wikimedia Commons.

Depression and Melancholy in Images

You'll see, in the images to follow, that melancholy has been associated for much of its history with (1) depression, but it is easily confused with (2) mourning and with (3) boredom. The personification of melancholy is often female.  Strangely melancholy has a link with (4) anger and with (5) angels.  It is connected with intellectual excellence, especially (6) geometry and (7) music and (8) philosophy.  It can be also associated with (9) intellectual exuberance and, more often than you'd imagine, with (10) sexual desire.  It can also linked, in Christian representations, with (11) sin and the devil (this is melancholy as acedia/accidie).


How do you look if you are depressed?  Melancholy and depression are represented, in the pictures to follow, mainly in three ways.  There is the head on the hand (usually the right hand if the representation will allow it - boredom tends to use the left hand) with the eyes cast downward.  There is the head tilted or lolled markedly to the left or right, again with the gaze cast downward.  There is the presence of the ball, the planet of Saturn, or the polyhedron (derived from Dürer) associated in some way or another with a person (or a thing, or a place).


The images are arranged chronologically.  Some of the illustrations from Peter Toohey, Boredom (2011) and Melancholy Love, and Time (2004) can be found here and are numbered to follow those books (Illustration 1 etc.).  This page is searchable (Command/Control+F).  An underscored word or phrase indicates a link to a prose commentary.

Peter Toohey

Francois Barraud, self-portrait as a melancholic.  1930?.  I know of no details concerning this painting.  It is one of Barraud's weakest.

Sébastien Leclerc (1637-1714), Philosophy, etching, 1707.  Photo: http://www.spamula.net/blog/2007/02/melancolies_1.html.  The globe on which Philosophy's elbow rests is the planet Saturn, patron deity of melancholy.  Compare Bellini, Dürer and Cranach the Elder above for this motif.  Geometrical aids are also to be found in Dürer, Gerung, and de Gehyn.  In Fetti (above) the planet becomes a skull.

Paul Gauguin, Te Faaturuma ("The Brooding Woman"/"Dejected Woman"/ "Melancholic Woman"), (1891) Worcester Art Museum.  Wikimedia Commons. Is that Dürer's dog in the background?  Is the horseman a putto?  Is the woman's hat the planet of Saturn?

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, La Mélancolie, vers 1860.  Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.  WikimediaCommons.

*          *          *

​The visual material here applies the "fair use" rationale adopted by WikiArt.org.  Each art work conforms to the following:

it is a historically significant artwork
the image is only being used for informational and educational purposes
the image is readily available on the internet
the image is a low-resolution copy of the original artwork and is unsuitable for commercial use.

Copyright terms are based on authors' deaths according to U.S. Copyright Law, that is 70 years.

A mourning figure on a Greek white-ground lekythos, fifth-century BCE.  British Museum.  Illustration 3 in Peter Toohey, ​Melancholy Love, and Time, 2004.

Domenico Fetti, Melancholy, 1625, Louvre. Wikimedia Commons.

Music as a remedy for melancholy and depression.  "Guérison par la musique". Aristotle, De somno et vigilia.  13th century.  Nuremberg, Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Cent. V 59 of 107.  From Klibansky, Panosky, and Saxl, Saturne et Mélancolie,  p.442.  Compare below Ekaterina Demidova, Tadeusz Pruszkowski, and Chagall.

Tarnów - Strzelecki Park - Maurycy Gomulicki: Melancholy, 2013.  Photo by Andrzej Otrębski, Wikimedia Commons.  The polyhedron as an image for melancholy is taken from Dürer's Melencolia I, 1514 (above).

Marcantonio Raymond, Adam and Eve in the Garden, c.1510.  http://www.spamula.net/blog/2005/07/raimondi.html  It's as if a languid life in the Garden of Eden has give Adam, seated right, a bad case of acedia.  The serpent is suggesting a way out. Of the versions of melancholia mentioned in the Introduction this is (11).

Arnold Boecklin, Villa by the Sea​, 1878. Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland.  WikiArt.org. Compare Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939 below.

Melancholy Jupiter.  Roman wall painting, 1st century CE, Museo Nazionale di Napoli.  Illustration 6 in Peter Toohey, Melancholy, Love, and Time, 2004.

Arnold Boecklin, Melancholia​, n.d. WikiArt.org.

Mattias Gerung, Melancholia in the Garden of Life , 1558, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe.  Wikimedia Commons.

Anselm Kiefer, Melancholia, 1989, photo SFMOMA.  There is Dürer's polyhedron again.  The melancholy genius of mathematics is put to human destruction - the lead plane is presumably a B52, or is the bombing this plane may achieve simply a very melancholy thing?  There's commentary in Jean Clair's Mélancolie​ and FX Reflects.

Francois Barraud, La taciturne.  1931.  http://www.sikart.ch/ImgRenderer.aspx?img=5954E1.  Wikimedia Commons

Mario Sironi, Melancholy (Seated Woman in a Landscape 1919-20, oil on canvas, Milan, Civico Museo d'Arte Contemporanea.  ​The round stone is the symbol for the plant Saturn, the god of melancholy.  Compare Bellini, Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder above.

Rünno, Svårmod – Melancholy - Melanhoolia, Kiruna church. Sweden. Year 2009.  Wikimedia Commons.

Jacques de Gheyn (or Zacharias Dolendo (?) after Jacob de Gheyn II), Saturn as Melancholy, 1595/6.  The inscription reads "melancholy, a bitter affliction of the spirit and the mind, often accompanies strength of ability and genius".   See:  Notes: http://www.spamula.net/blog/2006/05/de_gheyn.html  See Peter Toohey,  ​Annals of the  Emotions (Psychology Today Blog), January 1, 2016.

Thomas Eakins, The Artist's Wife and His Setter Dog, 1884-89.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Wikimedia Common.

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (1902).  Musée Rodin, Paris, France. Wikimedia Commons.  (See Peter Toohey, Psychology Today, August 6, 2015.)

Odilon Redon, Melancholia, 1876. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA  WikiArt.org

Tadeusz Pruszkowski (1888–1942). Melancholia, 1925, National Museum of Warsaw. Wikimedia Commons.    Compare "Music as a remedy for melancholy" above.

Paul Serusier,  Melancolie ou Eve bretonne (Melancholy, or Breton Eve)​, 1890.  Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.  Wikiart.org

Otto Dix, Mélancolie​, c.1930.  WikiArt.org.  Compare Fetti 1625 above.  A meretricious version that may go back to the Christian connection between melancholy (or acedia) and sin.

Edgar Degas, Melancholy​, 1874, Philips Collection, Washington DC, USA.  Wikiart.org.  Compare Sironi, Solitude​, below.

'Suicidal melancholy' after a photograph by H. W. Diamond Wellcome Images. http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0022593.html 

Ekaterina Petrovna Demidova, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, from Russian portraits of the 18th and 19th centuries: Edition of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich of Russia, printed in 1905-1909 as a catalogue of a 1905 exhibition. Wikimedia Commons.  See Peter Toohey, Psychology Today, August 6, 2015.

Giovanni Bellini/Andrea Previtali, Fortune / Melancholy, c.1490, Academy of Venice.  Wikimedia Commons. The orb is Saturn, the planet of Melancholy. See"Essays" Jan. 1, 2016.

Depressed or bored?  (See Peter Toohey, Psychology Today, August 6, 2015.)  Edward Hopper, New York Movie​, 1939.  WikiArt.org.  Compare Böcklin, Villa by the Sea​, above.

Rene Magritte, Bather​, 1925.  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi, Belgium.  Wikiart.org  The beach ball goes right back here to Bellini's orb in his vision of melancholia and may be linked to the planet Saturn.  But you can see it as recently as Sironi's Melancholy (Woman Seated in a Landscape​), 1919-1920, reproduced above.

'Religious melancholy' after a photograph by H. W. Diamond.  Wellcome Images.

http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0022592.html

Raja Popivoda, Covek​ (2015?), Рајко Попивода, Човек (Фото: А. Васиљевић)

http://www.politika.rs/scc/clanak/341564/Sedam-smrtnih-grehova-i-jedna-senka.  Compare Rodin above.

Francesco Hayez, Melancholy Thoughts​, 1842.  Private Collection.  The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.  Wikimedia Commons.

"The Purification of Orestes", first quarter of the fourth century BCE, Attributed to the "Eumenides Painter".  Detain of a red figure bell krater from Apulia.  Illustration 1 in Peter Toohey, Melancholy, Love, and Time, 2004.