The little princess – the Infanta Margaret Theresa who will marry the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I – traverses space and time, painting, dropping pigment as she goes, pointing up and beyond. She touches the plague doctor, with his strange conical hat and his beaked mask filled with sweet-smelling herbs that are thought to counter the miasma of the infected house. The plague doctor, his title notwithstanding, is principally a recorder of deaths, a keeper of the numbers, a medieval apparition whose function is not so much healing as counting, imposing order on chaos, controlling through listing. We know him just as well now as our plague-killed ancestors did.
The Dog in the Night: Christine Dixie’s Blueprint for the DisOrder of Things