Melencolia-What is that Bent Nail on Putto’s Dress?

Copyright Dr. Elizabeth Garner  June 19, 2014,, All Rights Reserved

One of the most astonishing hidden clues on the putto in Melencolia, besides hidden ships, is a very prominent bent nail on the left sleeve of her dress.  You see the bent nail below in the yellow box with the red arrow pointing to it:

The bent nail on the putto's dress
The bent nail on the putto’s dress

A bent nail is a very strange object to be found on the putto, who we know represents Margret Duererin.


We can’t thoroughly understand the meaning of the bent nail on the putto without combining it with another clue in this print, the Hebrew letters V A V found below the Melencolia belt code on the large figure, who we know represents Barbara Duererin, the mother of the 18 Duerer children.

Vav below the Melencolia belt code
Vav below the Melencolia belt code


The hebrew letter VAV, which here is Latinized and spelled out for the viewers, was originally pictured as a tent peg, hook or a nail. Specifically, the VAV was the tent peg or hook that held the curtains of the tabernacle of Moses together. The symbolic meaning of the VAV was to bind together or hook, and represented the connection between heaven and earth. mark or covenant.

Interestingly, the VAV in v’at , which  is the first VAV in the Hebrew Bible, connects “the heavens” and “the earth.”. This VAV, represented as a  “hook” is connecting the two women in the print. Why? Because there is a sacred trust between the two women, as mother and daughter, and Albrecht is recognizing this sacred trust of a surviving crippled twin to his mother.  It’s a tribute to both of them. 


But there’s more to this bent nail than the connection between mother and daughter.  As it is shaped, it is a German language “J. “

And we have already found out in my article, There’s No Melancholy in Melencolia, that Albrecht used the German letter J to represent the Hebrew Yawweh. But there is a third meaning of the German J and that is Juden, the German for Jew.

So, the bent nail, which makes a J in German,  for Juden and Yahweh, indicates these women were, once again, Jewish.

More to come!

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