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Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published since 2005

Published quarterly

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Open Access Journal

Affiliated ISCAR


Types of Catharsis in the Perception of Paintings 792


Ermolaeva M.V.
Doctor of Psychology, Professor of the UNESCO Department “Cultural and historical psychology of childhood”, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia

Lubovsky D.V.
PhD in Psychology, Professor of the Educational Psychology Department named after prof. V.A. Guruzhapov, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia

The article analyzes the functions and structure of psychological catharsis as a cultural means of meaning-making. Basing on eudemonistic understanding of catharsis, the authors show its meaning-making action. In the structure of catharsis, there are phases of excitement (pathos), concentration (‘merging’ with the main character), and transcendence (‘reaching beyond one’s limitations’) which, through personal reflection, concludes with the individual’s ‘return to oneself’, transformed through the encounter with the work of art. The authors consider catharsis as an event that encourages action and creates the space of opportunities for it; basing on the research of art historians, the authors describe two kinds of catharsis (in the perception of Caravaggio’s and Rembrandt’s works). The authors identify psychotechnical means of interrupting catharsis at the moment of emotional extremum (in the works of Caravaggio) and the conditions for completing the reflective catharsis with the ‘return to one’s transformed self’ (using the paintings of Rembrandt as an example). The paper concludes with an outline of further prospects of exploring catharsis as a cultural means of meaning-making.

Keywords: catharsis, eudemonistic interpretation, phases, psychotechnical means, paintings

Column: Essay


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