DÜRER'S SYMBOLISM

Adam and Eve
1504
Engraving


The four animals in lower right are representations of the four temperaments, or humors—phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic, and choleric. The ancient theory, which existed into Dürer’s time, was that each human possessed all four humors. A person’s personality and ailments were determined by his or her predominant humor.

Bull: phlegmatic humor, calm, unemotional
Rabbit: sanguine humor, sensual, courageous, hopeful
Elk: melancholic humor, despondent, sleepless, irritable
Cat: choleric humor, cruel, easily angered, feminine
Mouse: male weakness
Mountain goat: lust and damnation
Serpent: evil
Parrot: salvation, the antidote to the serpent

View: Melencolia I

Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1504. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA

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