Georges Braque's Patience (1942) & Albrecht Dürer's Melencolia I (1514)
Braque-Patience Durer-Melencolia
Braque bifurcates the woman's face into a dark profile and a light frontal view. Her right arm is bent and dark while her left arm is straight and light. The checkerboard on the chair is not the traditional 8x8 squares, but 6x7 or 42 squares. Why 42? Could Braque be dating this painting completed in 1942? In Melencolia, Dürer had arranged 1514 (date of engraving) into his 4x4 Magic Square of Jupiter. It's interesting to note that Braque's fortune teller and Dürer's angel have a similar pose— her left hand cupping her chin. The fortune teller is staring to an empty space whose shape may be bounded by a 5-sided figure (zig-zag of chair, checkerboard, edge of card table). This bears a striking resemblance to the 5-sided polyhedron which the angel is meditating on. The ringlets above Braque's woman and the hanging lamp are in the same spatial relation to Dürer's hourglass and bell. Behind Braque's wine bottle are ten x's that form an inverted "V" with a round knob at the top— the shape of the angel's compass. Dürer places the angel's key at her side tied to a ribbon on her skirt. Is the pendant around the fortune teller's neck a giant key whose oval ring is centered at her heart? If this is true, Braque is telling us that our fortune or destiny is not in the playing cards but in the key to our heart. (commentary by PYC)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (9-11-2000)