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Spring 2024


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New in College Art Association Reviews
A Review of Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melancolia I

In this review of Mitchel B. Merback’s Perfection’s Therapy, Jennifer Nelson discusses the book’s reframing of the enigmatic engraving and its theories on the therapeutic qualities of contemplating mystery. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:

“Mitchell Merback’s latest book, Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, precisely does not reveal what the enigma of the master engraving is “about.” Rather, it reveals mystery itself as a sixteenth-century therapeutic practice. In so doing, the book provides insight into the endurance and pervasiveness of a lingering stereotype: that transformative wisdom lies concealed in old books, old paintings, and old diagrams from old Europe. This stereotype brings with it rich fantasies about coded riddles that mask transhistorical conspiracies. As Merback is aware, for he uses a fitting epigraph from Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol to kick off the first chapter, Melencolia I may be the best and most famous exemplar of old European image enigmas. It is legible, in that many of the major objects and figures are more or less recognizable; yet the assembly of these objects and figures eludes explanation. Why is a putto sitting on a sideways millstone? What would someone be measuring in their lap in an otherwise non-pornographic image? A perfect fix for conspiracy junkies, the engraving signals that it bears lore (core wisdom from a given community), yet withholds any clear, unambiguous meaning.”