Early Sudoku players were troubled by melancholy.
Albrecht Durer’s 1514 engraving Melencolia I is analysed in L. Principe’s The Secrets of Alchemy (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Durer was one of the first artists to etch with acids, making nitric acid from saltpetre, alum and ferrous sulphate, dilute hydrochloric acid and potassium chlorate.
In the picture, a worried angel is surrounded by the tools of the alchemists and the early scientists: fire, crucible, hourglass, calipers. The magic square with numbers 1 – 16 with each column and diagonal adding up to 34, a comet, a rainbow with the alchemists’ changing colours, a philosopher’s stone. In alchemy, black bile is used to make gold.
Melancholy was associated with insanity and creative genius. Is the angel troubled by not flying? Has the artist failed to be positive about the angel’s role, and in failing so abandoning his tools?
Thanks to P. Ball, Nature 512, 26-7