Philip Melanchton As A Humanist: A Survey Of The 16th Century Visual Sources
Keywords:Melanchthon, the Reformation, the Humanism, engraving, portrait
Until today, there are some ardent discussions about the role of Philip Melanchthon in the German Reformation as well as his relation to the Humanism. Taking the visual sources and narratives accompanying the images as the basis for further research, the author attempts to answer the following question: how did Melanchthon’s contemporaries perceive him? All the 16th century engraved portraits of Melanchthon confirm that in contrast to Martin Luther, who was always depicted as a reformer and whose portrait has become a basis for a new Lutheran iconography, Melanchthon was portrayed as a humanist. Albrecht Dűrer was the first to lay the foundations of the Melanchthon’s humanist iconography in the engraving dated to 1526. The peculiarity of this engraving was the following: despite Melanchthon’s religious activities in 1520s, which presented him mainly as a reformer, the portrait bears no indication of it. The humanist image of Melanchthon, made by Dűrer, was copied and reproduced by other artists. Engravings made by different German artists were always accompanied by explanatory narratives, which referred to Melanchthon as humanist, scholar and teacher. The engravings prove that the educated elite considered Melanchthon not only as a reformer, but also a humanist.