Perfection’s Therapy: A Discussion with Mitchell B. Merback and Shira Brisman
This evening marks the publication of Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I. Join us at Deutsches Haus at NYU, as the author discusses the book with Shira Brisman.
Albrecht Dürer’s master engraving, Melencolia I, has stood for centuries as a pictorial summa of knowledge about melancholia and an allegory of the limits of earthbound arts and sciences. Zealously interpreted since the nineteenth century, the work also presides over the origins of modern iconology. Yet more than a century of research has left us with a tangle of mutually contradictory theories.
In Perfection’s Therapy, Mitchell Merback discovers in Melencolia’s opacity a fascinating possibility: that Dürer’s masterpiece is not only an arresting diagnosis of melancholic distress, but an innovative instrument for its undoing. Merback deftly analyses the visual and narrative structure of Dürer’s image, revisits its philosophical and medical contexts, and resituates it within the long history of the therapeutic artifact. Placing Dürer’s project in dialogue with that of humanism’s founder, Francesco Petrarch, Merback also unearths the German artist’s ambition to act as a physician of the soul.