13 abril 2006


"Melancholy: Genius and Madness in Art" is now showing in Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie. Laszlo Földenyi traces the strands that make the show the foremost of its kind.

For years now, a postcard has been sitting on my shelf, propped against some books. It shows a 5,000-year-old Egyptian alabaster figurine. It is said to be the most ancient animal sculpture in Berlin's Egyptian Museum. This statuette, 52 cm high, is connected with Narmer, the last king of the Pre-Dynastic Era. Squatting down like a human being, with its legs tucked underneath it and a protruding snout, this creature stares into space with a look of unutterable indifference.

I am certain that were I capable of peering like that I would see nothing at all. My gaze would penetrate everything it met, adhering to nothing. Or I might instead perceive everything, while simultaneously sensing its sheer futility. The baboon's gaze is "bestial". Welling up within it, nonetheless, seems to be a presentment of other horizons, those that have always evoked yearning in the human soul, presumably because people were never able to conceptualize these intimations. Since the beginning of time, we have been tormented by the incomprehensible. In the form of melancholy.

Read on and find out paintings' titles and authors in Sign and Sight

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