In a review of Perfection’s Therapy for 3:AM Magazine, Richard Marshall discusses Mitchell Merback’s new interpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s famously contested and illusive engraving, Melencolia I. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below.
“Melencolia I is an example of a new genre of Christian art directed towards therapeutic ends, where some expectations are metaphorical, others concrete and practical. For Dürer therapy’ in both Greek and Latin, encompasses treatment, care, healing and attention. European visual culture long before industrialization knew of therapies of the image. Art history itself is aware of them and their various forms. There were devotional images for emotional training and visual-sacramental therapy. There were votive images as relays for securing the health of a body and the health of a soul through heavenly intercession. There were cult images for both votive function and a quasi-magic of protection and cure. There were meditative images for spiritual exercises.
Merback’s innovative work presses now for the identification of a new image, the image of the allegorical-speculative image for cognitive-spiritual exercise. These images were not stepping stones to metaphysical truths. They aimed at a Petrarchan practical and ethical therapy in the world. In this they link with the complex pedigree of catharsis, Aristotle’s best-known therapy. Merback argues therefore that Dürer’s Melencolia I is ‘ an erudite portrayal of the peculiar misery that grips creative people, melancholia, but also an instrument for remedying it.’”