According to Panofsky’s widely-accepted theory, the subject of Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I (1514) was intended as a feminine personification of the liberal art Geometry and the temperament Melancholy. However, we argue that this synthesized personification is a façade. This formulaic veneer was meant to camouflage a layer of meaning that was only accessible to those who were familiar with the writings of the Christian Cabalists Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Johannes Reuchlin. The symbolism of Melencolia I, like that of its counterpart engraving Saint Jerome in his Study (1514), was influenced by Dürer’s interest in Christian Hebraism. Our research findings show that this image can best be understood as a visual interpretation of Pico’s Humanist manifesto Oratio (1486). Viewed from this perspective the main character of Dürer’s Melencolia I transcends the bounds of the formulaic personification of Melancholy perceived by Panofsky, and transforms into an important figure in Pico’sOratio, the high angel of Jewish mysticism, Metatron.
Zhenya Gershman is an internationally renowned artist. She was born in Moscow, Russia and held her 1st solo exhibition in St. Petersburg at age 14. She was selected as a subject of the TV Documentary Film “Our Generation”, a project dedicated to searching for the five most talented teenagers in Russia, showing hope for the cultural future of the country. The youngest student to be admitted to Otis Art Institute, Zhenya graduated with Honors and later received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from Art Center College of Design. Today, Gershman’s portraits are featured in public and private collections including Douglas Simon and Richard Weisman (she is included in the book “Picasso to Pop: The Richard Weisman Collection”). Gershman’s portrait of Sting was acquired for the permanent collection of the Arte Al Limite Museum, due to open in 2018 in Santiago, Chile. Zhenya participates in important international exhibitions including Art Aspen, Art Miami, and Art Chicago. The GRAMMY MusiCares Foundation selected Gershman to create portraits of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Her exhibition Larger Than Life was broadcast by Entertainment Tonight, Extra Television, and The New York Post. A documentary film, The Model’s Artist, highlights Gershman’s innovative approach to working with artists’ models. In 2000, Gershman was a recipient of ALEX Award in Visual Arts from The National Alliance for Excellence, Honored Scholars and Artists Program, presented by Peter Frank, who is quoted as saying that Gershman’s effort evokes not only Whistler’s and Sargent’s, but that from which they took inspiration, Manet’s and Velazquez’s–masters of the figure who in their own ways avoided the banal literalities of their contemporaries for a rendition truer to the vagaries of vision, and (thereby) to the dynamics of human presence.
In addition to her artistic career, Gershman is an independent scholar and a museum educator. She has worked for over a decade in the internationally acclaimed J. Paul Getty Museum, and has contributed to such exhibitions as Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits and Rembrandt: Telling the Difference. As a co-Founder and President of Project AWE, a non-profit foundation for the arts and education, Gershman has dedicated her scholarly and charitable work to provide new dimensions in understanding and experiencing the cultural icons of Western European heritage. Gershman’s groundbreaking discovery regarding the presence of a hidden Rembrandt self-portrait was published by Arion, Boston University and was brought to European audiences by Le Monde. She continues to work in her studio and is currently working on a book Dürer’s Labyrinth: Melencolia in the Context of Early Modern Knowledge following her article Dürer’s Enigma: A Kabbalistic Revelation in Melencolia §I published by Brill’s Aries Journal.