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Burton Review
by Simon Cox,
Author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction

In The Da Vinci Code it was Leonardo da Vinci, in Angels & Demons is was Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and now in the new Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol, we have Albrecht Durer. Art and the artists who create it are never far from Dan Brown's mind it would seem.

In The Lost Symbol, Brown uses one of the great engravings of Albrecht Durer, Melencolia I, as a device to embed a clue for Langdon to solve. In this case, it's a so-called magic square, to be seen within the engraving, that leads Langdon forward in his quest. So lets take a little look at this amazing piece of art.

Melencolia I was intended to be part of a set -- possibly three, maybe four -- but was in the end the only one completed. It's an extraordinary piece of work that Dan Brown could have mined for several books worth of mysterious material. Durer was, it would seem, a man out of time. One of those incredible characters, much like both Leonardo and Bernini, who stand head and shoulders above all around them. He was also, again like Leonardo and Bernini, prone to long bouts of melancholic depression and introspective meditation. Durer was a flawed genius.

Melencolia I fascinated me as soon as I set my eyes upon it. This is an image full to the brim with symbolic elements and secret iconography. I reproduce the image in full on one of the pages of my book, Decoding The Lost Symbol. As I state in the book, entire theses and books have been devoted to trying to explain the images within the engraving. It's a deep and complex piece that demands an extended period of research and study, and even then you can only really scratch the surface. This truly is an example of art that reaches out and touches the psyche and the unconscious of the viewer. It has become one of my favorite images and I never tire of looking at it.

The central them of the engraving seems to be echoed within the pages of The Lost Symbol, namely transformation of the soul via alchemical endeavors and the attaining of a higher level of being. Many of the items that Durer has chosen to feature within the image are of alchemical meaning, including a crucible, scales and various tools. There is the background image of a rainbow and a village in the distance -- a tranquil looking scene compared to the foreground representation of a very melancholy looking female angel who holds a set of Masonic looking compasses. There is a bell, scales and a timer, as well as an emaciated dog and a rather forlorn looking cherubim. Its an incredible image and one that I urge you to look at and into. Durer was trying to reach out to the viewer and impart something, rather like Dan Brown has tried to do within the pages of The Lost Symbol. I think it's a very fitting image for Brown to have used.

For those of you interested in knowing more, or who want to contact me directly, I am on Facebook under my name, on Twitter (@FindSimonCox) and have a website at

Copyright © 2009 Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction

Author Bio
Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction, was the founding editor in chief of the successful newsstand magazine Phenomena. Having studied Egyptology at University College London, he went on to work as a research assistant for some of the biggest names in the alternative history game, including Graham Hancock, Robert Bauvel, and David Rohl. He splits his time between Britain and the United States.

You can visit his website at