Quantitative Melencolia

Goldin+Senneby’s Quantitative Melencolia (2023) is a conceptual intervention into museum economies, recreating Melencolia I (1514) by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer.

Melencolia I is one of the most enigmatic engravings of all time. Its brooding figure surrounded by unused instruments of scientific investigation is widely regarded as a symbol of frustration with the limits of intellectual pursuit. It’s unknown how many prints were made in Dürer’s time. An estimate of 200 known impressions still exists half a millennium later, but the original printing plate is long gone.

Starting with one of the remaining impressions of Melencolia I, Goldin+Senneby have enlisted security printing specialists, Jura, to perform a microscopic scan capturing the impression with exceptional detail, including paper fibres and the surface depth of Dürer’s mark-making. The scan has then been re-drawn line by line by bank note engraver Gunnar Nehls and finally laser engraved to produce a replica plate.

A series of new impressions have been hand-printed on 16th-century paper. Following on from Dürer’s title, the recreated impressions are titled Melencolia II, Melencolia III, Melencolia IV onwards.

”To us Quantitative Melencolia is a folding of time: Re-engraving Dürer’s lost plate into history while re-situating this art historical masterpiece in the present moment – multiplying the melancholy of our time” say the artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby.

Commissioned by the Whitworth, University of Manchester, for the exhibition Economics the Blockbuster: It’s Not Business as Usual, 2023. An artist reflection on the proposal was published in 2020.

Black, Holy. “A Swedish Conceptual Art Duo Is Selling a New Run of Albrecht Dürer Prints…”, Artnet News, July 11, 2023.

Luke, Ben. Interview with cultural economist Ismail Ertürk about Quantitative Melencolia, The Art Newspaper Podcast, 30 June, 2023. (final 15 min)