Albrecht Dürer's 1514 master engraving «Melencolia I» has attracted complex scholarship since the establishment of art history as an academic discipline. The wealth of historical contextual material and iconographic interpretations is inexhaustible. However, the reception of «Melencolia I» by artistsand since the eighteenth centuryby literary fi gures is much older. This paper addresses the literary reception history in German Classicism and Romanticism as well as the engraving's reception by English and French writers of the modern era and the avant-garde. For the 20th century, Gottfried Benn, Günter Grass, and Peter White will serve as examples. Here, as in all other testimonials of reception, it becomes comprehensible why the engraving's semantic ability to connect allowed for historical updates that secure the vitality of the very old melancholy-tradition also for the self-positioning of the aesthetic and political modernity.