Go Crystal Tears: The Art of Melancholy

Adam Busiakiewicz

In our modern times, melancholy is commonly considered to be a debilitating affliction, closely aligned to depression. However, the quiet introspection of melancholy was often associated with creativity in the past. This was especially prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when significant treatises, music and art were dedicated to the condition. Treading the thin line between madness and contentment, this live HENI Talk by lecturer and lutenist Adam Busiakiewicz, produced in association with The Arts Society, investigates why and how artists responded to this prevalent human experience.

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A Young Man Seated Under a Tree

Isaac Oliver,c.1590-1595

RCIN 420639

Royal Collection Trust / HM Queen Elizabeth II


Frontispiece from:

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Oxford : John Lichfield, for Henry Cripps, 1628

British Library

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Adriaen van de Venne, illustration (engraving) from:

Zeeusche Nachtegael, 1623, p.55

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Orpheus in the Underworld

Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1594

Public Domain Mark 1.0



Roelandt Savery, 1628

The National Gallery, London

(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Lute Player

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1595-1596

Public Domain Mark 1.0


A Man Playing a Lute
Hendrik ter Brugghen, 1624
The National Gallery, London
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Young Woman with a Lute
Johannes Vermeer, c.1662-1663

The Metropolitan Museum, New York

Public Domain Mark 1.0



Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life
Harmen Steenwyck, c.1640
The National Gallery, London

(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Vanitas Still Life with a Book

Pieter Claesz, c.1659-1660

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Henry Percy, 9thEarl of Northumberland

Nicholas Hilliard, c.1590-1595

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Public Domain Mark 1.0

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