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Spring 2024


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New in PopMatters
Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Melencolia I’ and the Power of Visual Therapy

In a new review in PopMatters, Chadwick Jenkins ponders the properties of melancholy, as discussed in Mitchell B. Merback’s Perfection’s Therapy. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below:

“In his new book, Perfection’s Therapy: An Essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, art historian Mitchell B. Merback claims that this search for a single and totalizing interpretation of the etching may obscure the manner in which it achieves its expressive agenda (38). Rather than present a cohesive, self-enclosed whole, Merback suggests, Dürer seeks to “convey the feeling of melancholic distress, to simulate the disorientation that attends a particular state of mind” (49). Merback proposes that the work is not allegorical in the sense of a rebus that can be puzzled out, where each constituent element “adds” up to a complete and contained meaning; rather the etching is both allegorical and speculative (51)—meaning that rather than asking the viewer to solve a puzzle (where no solution is forthcoming) and rather than attempting to derail thought through the frustration of one’s cognitive powers, Melencolia I encourages one to “exercise one’s powers of discernment and interpretation in an open-ended fashion” (62). The purpose of this exercise, according to Merback, is not simply to represent melancholy but also, and more importantly, to serve as a therapeutic aid in coming to grips with the condition.”