We have some exciting events planned for the rest of this year, and several conference sessions planned in 2018. Read on for more information.

You can find information about our past events here.


Representing Infirmity: Diseased Bodies in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy

International Conference December 13-15, 2017

Monash University Prato Centre

                                                Unknown Umbrian Painter, St. Francis of Assisi and Three Franciscan Friars Caring for Lepers, 1474. Illustration from Giacomo Oddi, Lo Specchio dell’Ordine Minore (known as La Franceschina), Perugia, Biblioteca Comunale Augusta, ms. 1238, fol. 223r. (detail)

This conference represents the first analysis of how diseased bodies were represented in Italy during the ‘long Renaissance’, from the early 1400s through ca. 1650. Many individual studies by historians of art and medicine address specific aspects of this subject, yet there has never been an attempt to define or explore the broader topic. Moreover, most studies interpret Renaissance images and text through the lens of current notions about disease. This conference avoids the pitfalls of retrospective diagnosis, and looks beyond the modern category of ‘disease’ by viewing ‘infirmity’ in Galenic humoural terms. Papers explore what infirmities were depicted in visual culture, in what context, why, and when. Specific examples consider the idealized body altered by disease, and the relationship between the depiction of infirmities through miracle cures and through medical treatment. Speakers also examine how and why these representations change across media and over time. Thus, certain types of diseased bodies appear often in votive images, but never in altarpieces or sculptures; representations of wounds and sores grow increasingly less graphic and frequent, but with notable exceptions. Finally, it explores how the development of greater knowledge of the workings and structure of the body in this period, through, for example, the growth of anatomy, was reflected in changing ideas and representations of the metaphorical, allegorical, and symbolic meanings of infirmity and disease. The conference addresses the construction of the notion of disease, and aims to present a new paradigm for the field.

Read more about the Monash University Prato Centre here, including information on how to get to there.

The event is open to all and free of charge, no reservation required. For additional information, please contact:

December 13


  • Bill Kent Lecture: John Henderson (Birkbeck, University of London and Monash University), “Religion, Medicine and Art in the Time of Plague: Florence, 1630-33”
  • Reception


December 14


  • Registration
  • Cecilia Hewlett (Director, Monash University Prato Centre), Welcome
  • John Henderson, Introduction
  • Sheila Barker (Medici Archive Project, Florence), “Artistic Devices for Representing Internal Symptoms and Infirmities without Outward Symptoms”
  • Evelyn Welch (King’s College, London), “Breaking Skin in Renaissance Italy”
  • Discussion

Coffee Break

  • Jonathan K. Nelson (Syracuse University Florence), “Cancer in Michelangelo’s Night: Temperaments in the New Sacristy”
  • Danielle Carrabino (Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts), “Early Modern Views of Goiters: Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew
  • Discussion 

Buffet Lunch


  • Paolo Savoia (King’s College, London), “Suffering Through It: Representations of Bodies in Surgery in Italian Books, ca 1550-1650”
  • Diana Bullen Presciutti (University of Essex and Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies), “The Friar as medico: Picturing Leprosy, Institutional Care, and Franciscan Virtues in La Franceschina
  • Discussion

Tea Break

  • Fredrika Jacobs (Virginia Commonwealth University), “Infirmity in votive culture: A Case Study from the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’ Arco, Naples”
  • Jenni Kuuliala (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere), “Disability, Illness, and the Miraculous in the late sixteenth century: The San Carlo cycle of paintings in the Duomo of Milan.”
  • Peter Howard (Monash University, Melbourne and Prato), “Infirmity as ‘exemplum’ and Rhetorical Ploy in Renaissance Preaching”
  • Discussion


December 15


  • Registration
  • Michael Stolberg (Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, University of Würzburg), Discussant
  • General Discussion

 Coffee Break


  • Margaret Bell (Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara) “The Spatiality of Infirmity in Renaissance Italian Painting”
  • Jennifer Gear (Department of the History of Art, The University of Michigan), “Exploring Plague and its Imaging in Seicento Venice”
  • Sara Berkowitz (Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland at College Park), “Beyond the Bearded Lady: Figuring Medical and Gender Ambiguity in Jusepe de Ribera’s Portrait of Magdalena Ventura and her Husband (1631)”
  • Sarah McBryde (Department of History of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London), “ ‘A gifted dwarf’ in the court of Cosimo I de’Medici”
  • Discussion

Short biographies of the speakers appear below

The Conference is organized by the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Monash University, as part of the “Body in the City Arts Focus Research Program.”

Funding for graduate students, and for the December 14 buffet lunch, is provided by a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, administered through Syracuse University Abroad.


John Henderson (Birkbeck, University of London and Monash University), “Religion, Medicine, and Art in the Time of Plague: Florence, 1630-33”

The subject of religion and medicine, and indeed religion as medicine, has recently become an important topic of research, particularly within the context of the history of late medieval and early medicine. The relationship between these fields has emerged as a fundamental aspect in understanding the nature of the contemporary holistic vision of how the human body worked and was treated through the complementary role of the doctor of the body and the doctor of the soul. This lecture will analyse the role of religion as medicine in the treatment of the sick body of both the city and the individual during the last major epidemic of plague to affect the city of Florence, 1630-1. It will examine the main religious strategies adopted by Church and State first to prevent and then to mitigate the impact of plague and finally to give thanks for the cessation of the epidemic. The strategies centred around three main holy sites: the Cathedral, the miraculous shrine at the Servite church of SS. Annunziata, and the Observant Dominican church of S. Marco, which housed the body of the 15th -century Florentine archbishop, St. Antoninus. The increased devotion at these important ecclesiastical centres led, furthermore, to a wide range of artistic commissions, including chapels, altarpieces, frescoes, costly silver candlesticks, and more humble ex-voti. Given this artistic outpouring during and following the epidemic, this lecture will explore the themes of commissions and how they placed emphasis on the representation of saintly figures and patrons and how far on showing the ravages of disease on the body of the sick. Furthermore, how far did the religious reactions and subjects of the artistic commissions associated with plague in 17th -century Florence conform or differ from those adopted by other cities in early modern Italy.

Sheila Barker (The Medici Archive Project), “Artistic Devices for Representing Internal Symptoms and Infirmities without Outward Symptoms”

In the art of 15th – 17th-century Italy, we find many cases of visible symptoms being represented in art with exacting similitude whenever these symptoms occur on the skin, or involve the breakage of the skin, or consist of extreme deformities affecting the head and limbs. A rather different artistic challenge faced artists attempting to represent symptoms and medical complaints not immediately visible on the surface of the body. This paper will examine the ways in which artists sought to represent in visual art some of the dozens of internal or otherwise ‘invisible’ infirmities and symptoms that were known in Renaissance medicine, from fever, to melancholy, to colic, to contagion, to foul odors, to death. The devices that artists resorted to for this purpose included allegory, poetic allusion, and the depiction of associated phenomena (the visible causes of the malady, the treatment of the malady, the victims’ behavioral patterns, and the reactions of caretakers and bystanders in the vicinity of the victims). The results were not always entirely successful, with some artworks giving rise to debate among later audiences regarding the subject’s state of health, such as Poussin’s Self-Portrait in red chalk at the British Museum. Among the many works to be discussed are Bernini’s St. Teresa of Avila in Ecstasy, Bernardino Luini’s Annunciation to St. Anne, Domenico Fetti’s Melancholia, Poussin’s Landscape with a Snake, and Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina.

Evelyn Welch (King’s College, London), “Breaking Skin in Renaissance Italy.”

This paper explores the challenges of representing infirmities, from smallpox to toothache, that involved rupturing the skin, posed in Early Modern Europe, with special attention given to Renaissance Italy. Since Galen, skin, the top layer of the body, has been considered a porous mesh that was easily penetrated by internal or external disruptions. Ideal skins, male and female, were unblemished and smooth, demonstrating that the internal complexion of the body was, and had always been, in a healthy, well-balanced state. Where this was not the case, there were numerous recipes for creams, lotions, and waters designed to erase the records of past marks. It was indeed rare for a portrait to depict anything but perfect skin. But numerous infirmities challenged this visual ideal, often resulting in scars, weals, pimples, and poxes. In other cases, disease or the fear of disease encouraged practitioners ranging from barber surgeons to farriers to deliberately open the skin as part of their treatment. The techniques of phlebotomy, scarification, or cupping resulted in instructional images (identifying veins or points of entry), numerous genre scenes, and satires, printed versions of which proliferated by the 16th and 17th– centuries.

Jonathan Nelson (Syracuse University Florence), “Cancer in Michelangelo’s Night: Temperaments in the New Sacristy”

The left breast of Michelangelo’s Night (Florence, Church of San Lorenzo, New Sacristy) exhibits three abnormalities that if found in a woman, Renaissance physicians would associate with cancer: a large bulge, a swollen nipple-areola complex, and an area of skin retraction. These findings have not been observed in any other example of monumental Renaissance art. Scholars of many disciplines have argued that the Night reflects Michelangelo’s supposed lack of interest in or familiarity with the nude female figure, but the artist evidently inspected a woman with a diseased breast and accurately reproduced the physical signs in a marble allegorical figure. The question is why, and the path to an answer lies in the understanding of cancer in the 16th– century. Many of Michelangelo’s contemporaries knew that the disease was discussed, often at length, and even described as “cancer” by the most famous medical authorities of antiquity, and by several prominent medieval authors. Cancer was always considered to be fatal, which might help explain its appearance in a funerary chapel. More importantly, however, pre-modern beliefs about the cause of cancer –the result of humoral imbalances—lead to a new awareness of Michelangelo’s exploration of the temperaments in the New Sacristy sculptures.

Danielle Carrabino (Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts), “Early Modern Views of Goiters: Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew

In the lower left corner of Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Andrew painting, a woman throws her head back to gaze up at the miracle occurring before her, revealing a prominent goiter in her neck. Although not the protagonist, this figure is a crucial eyewitness to the scene and her hands clasped in prayer prompt the viewer to respond accordingly. The painting, created in Naples in 1607, has been related to the special devotion of its owner to the saint, whose relics are preserved in nearby Amalfi. Radiographs of the painting record that the woman’s clasped hands were originally positioned beneath her chin, but were later removed to expose her enlarged thyroid gland. Scholars have suggested that this deliberate change served to identify the woman as a peasant from the area surrounding Naples where goiter was endemic. Andrew’s role as the patron saint of throat and neck maladies has also provided an explanation for the inclusion of the woman to suggest that her proximity to the saint and the prayers directed toward him will result in the miraculous cure of her illness. Moreover, the woman with goiter exemplifies Caravaggio’s sometimes characteristic naturalism; a product of his insistence on painting directly from life. However, these interpretations of the painting have not considered the current state of research concerning goiter and its associations in contemporary and medical discourse. Although the function of the thyroid gland and the cure for goiter would not be discovered until the late 19th – century, significant advances in this area of medicine had been made around the time Caravaggio painted this scene. By considering the painting as a document depicting this physical ailment at a specific time and place in history, we may better understand how a contemporary viewer would have responded to this painting and grasped its intended meaning.

Paolo Savoia (King’s College, London), “Suffering Through It: Representations of Bodies in Surgery in Italian Books, ca. 1550-1650”

In the Galenic tradition, medicine was distinct from surgery. While the former dealt with diseases caused by internal conditions (internal humoral imbalances), the task of surgery was to treat conditions that affected the external parts of the body. In theory, physicians healed through oral medicaments, and surgeons through the work of their hands. However, in practice things were more complicated. Both surgeons and physicians referred to both kinds of conditions as “diseases.” Moreover, surgeons’ duties included treating both swellings and sores visible on the external part of the body, as well as wounds and accidents caused by external factors, such as arrows and bullets. This paper will focus on this ambiguity and on the marginal status of surgery by exploring the representation of surgically “diseased” bodies in a series of books published in Italy ca. 1550-1650. While representations of bodies in pain are generally idealized and abstract in the books of university-trained surgeons, books by empirically trained surgeons and barber-surgeons, who specialized in bloodletting, are more vivid and realistic. However, this paper will focus on an exception and follow the editorial history of an image popularized in the Latin and vernacular editions (1573 and 1583) of the very famous and learned Venetian surgeon Giovanni Andrea Dalla Croce. This image depicts a Christian soldier and a “Turkish” soldier undergoing the removal of an arrow from their chests on the battlefield. By comparing it with contemporaneous images of martyrdom and surgeons’ written suggestions for managing surgical pain, it demonstrates how representations of suffering patients touched upon a wider imagery of bearing pain.

Diana Bullen Presciutti, “The Friar as Medico: Picturing Leprosy, Institutional Care, and Franciscan Virtues in La Franceschina”

This talk examines the representation of medical care in Franciscan visual culture, focusing on the second half of the 15th – century. While Francis of Assisi had been depicted in a number of 13th – century paintings curing victims of leprosy and other afflictions, these mostly posthumous miracle scenes are economic in composition, with minimal detail, and emphasize the healing power of Francis and his relics rather than the close description of individual maladies. A very different pictorial strategy is at work in the watercolor illustrations of two 15th– century manuscript versions of La Franceschina, a collection of Franciscan vitae authored by the Perugian Observant friar Giacomo Oddi. Both manuscripts (dated 1474 and 1482/84) include an illustration showing Francis and his brethren tending to victims of leprosy. The images, which place a strong emphasis on the disfiguring symptoms of leprosy, show the Franciscans offering sustenance and comfort to the sufferers of the disease without fear of bodily contact; their grateful patients, are, in turn, presented as pious and deserving. Care is depicted as taking place in a salubrious hospital environment and there is no indication of miraculous healing—it is instead humility, made manifest through hospital work, that is highlighted. This paper will argue that these illustrations visually present institutional care and medical treatment as ideal Franciscan activities, a strategy that would have been particularly meaningful in the contemporary context of Observant support for hospital specialization and rationalization. Through a close examination of these illustrations, along with related images of healing miracles and institutional activities from La Franceschina and elsewhere, it elucidates the visual strategies through which the early Franciscans were constructed in the manuscripts as both effective medical practitioners and models of humility for a 15th – century Observant audience.

Fredrika Jacobs (Virginia Commonwealth University), “Infirmity in Votive Culture: A Case Study from the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’ Arco, Naples”

Formulaic declarations of despair are common in 16th-17th – century books chronicling miraculous cures and wondrous rescues effected by cultic images. “Infirm, abandoned by physicians and desperate for help,” suppliants are recorded as having turned away from medici and toward God or, rather, toward an immagine miracolosa in and through which God performed miracles. Libri dei miracoli are not singular in acknowledging such efficacy. Approximately 1,500 extant, votive paintings (tavolette dipinti, tavolette votive) produced for popular use throughout Italy between roughly 1470-1610, affirm the role of faith in confronting the ravaging effects of disease. Some 650 of these tavolette are preserved in the Neapolitan Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’ Arco, a site that also lays claim to a miracle book dated 1608. Although each painting commemorates deliverance from a specific mishap or the cure of a particular infirmity, they are typically as formulaic as their written counterparts, namely miracle book entries. What, then, do these images tell us about contemporaneous perceptions of infirmity among the popoli? This paper will consider the question through the focused examination of a distinctive group of tavolette in the collection of the Madonna dell’ Arco. Distinguished from the vast majority of other paintings that represent the infirm as bedridden, these panels portray those confined to bed expectorating blood. The significance of this detail is considered by contextualizing this group of panels within the sanctuary’s larger collection, the site’s miracle book, and the discussion of phthisis (tisico in Italian) by physicians, most notably Girolamo Frascatoro, who enumerated the symptoms and offered remedies for the cure of what came to be understood as pulmonary tuberculosis.

Jenni Kuuliala (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere), “Disability, Illness, and the Miraculous in the late 16th – century: The San Carlo Cycle of Paintings in the Duomo of Milan”

The Quadroni di San Carlo consist of two cycles of paintings representing the vita and miracula of St. Carlo Borromeo (1528–1584). The first of the two cycles, portraying Carlo’s life, began in 1602 and continued until the latter half of the 18th – century. The second cycle, portraying the saint’s miracles, is the principal focus of this presentation. It includes 24 paintings representing various miraculous deeds, mostly healings. Most were painted between 1609 and 1 November 1610, when Carlo Borromeo was canonised. A couple of additional paintings were adjoined to the second cycle in the later 17th – century. This presentation will discuss the portrayal of illness and impairment as it is represented in these works, especially from the view of the miraculous. Most of the miracoli paintings present a cure that was also documented in written form in San Carlo’s miracle collection. This allows for a comparison between visual and written representations of a miraculously cured body. Additionally, the text supplies background information to the portrayed cases. The main questions to be addressed include; how were the physical and emotional sides of infirmity portrayed, how do secondary figures within a painting react to the depicted narrative and thereby enrich the painting’s message, and which elements of the written miracles were selected for visualization.

Peter Howard (Monash University, Melbourne and Prato), “Infirmity as ‘Exemplum’ and Rhetorical Ploy in Renaissance Preaching”

Memorably, Susan Sontag begins her essay Illness as Metaphor by saying: “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place”. The idea of sickness and infirmity in relation to identity – hope and fear, the placed and displaced – similarly pervades the biblical text. This paper examines two aspects of the use of illness as metaphor in 15th -century preaching in Florence: as exempla and as a rhetorical device. Exempla – the stories that are often the key to sermons and other religious texts – have been described as a “bag of tricks” (Riffaterre), a limited system of incomplete and deficient visual and aural symbols that aided readers, viewers, or hearers in the rapid recovery of vastly more extensive representations. Exempla of infirmity – stories of leprosy, the lame, and those sick unto death raised to life – pervaded religious discourse in the period: written, oral, and visual. As a rhetorical ploy, a personalised discourse of infirmity served the preacher by investing hearers with a shared identity and enticing them to be complicit in furthering that same identity. In this way, the ‘infirm’ preacher inserted himself into the group that needed to be preached to and established his own right and authority to be heard.

Margaret Bell (Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara) “The Spatiality of Infirmity in Renaissance Italian Painting”

This poster will explore the representation of infirmity in relationship to depicted architectural space in Italian Renaissance painting. In the early modern period, architecture was considered central to the maintenance of health, both in the context of individual buildings and the public space of the city. Architecture not only created healthy environments that moderated temperature, air flow, and odor, but as hospitals became more specialized, also provided segregated quarters for patients with particular conditions, such as leprosy or the plague. Looking at case studies from the 15th through 17th– centuries, this poster will examine how infirmity was represented spatially in the visual arts, and how these representations changed as medical and moral notions of infirmity shifted over time. It examines depictions of infirmity in relationship to two general types of architectural spaces with the aim of revealing how Renaissance visual culture conceptualized infirmity in relationship to the built environment. The first are representations of the infirm in public spaces, like the moralizing images of beggars or miraculous healings that take place in urban settings. The second are depictions of the infirm in private or semi-private spaces, such as homes and hospitals, like the 15th– century frescoes in the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena that depict daily care of the poor and sick.

Jennifer Gear (Department of the History of Art, The University of Michigan), “Exploring Plague and its Imaging in Seicento Venice”

Antonio Zanchi’s The Virgin Appears to the Plague-Stricken, a painting in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco commemorating the 1630-31 plague epidemic, functions as a compendium of the foremost medical and spiritual concerns associated with plague in 17th– century Venice. Through the use of traditional iconographies associated with the disease, this work demonstrates the continued importance of actions taken against plague that had been established in the previous two centuries, from avoiding miasmic air, to seeking holy intercession. However, with its inclusion of elements specific to the seicento outbreak in Venice, Zanchi’s painting also sheds light on newly developed methods of treating the disease and decontaminating the urban environment. Though one cannot establish a direct correspondence between developments in the medical treatment of plague in seicento Venice and the production of works of art depicting the disease, similarities emerged in each field. This poster explores these parallels, including skepticism toward the use of amulets to prevent and cure the disease, and anxieties concerning the transmission of plague through inanimate objects and the environment. Zanchi’s painting demonstrates that older Galenic concepts of bodily humours coexisted with newly emergent theories of contagion developed by Girolamo Fracastoro in the mid-16th -century, whereby plague was spread through contaminated particles, or “seeds” of disease. The work is filled with graphic representations of plague corpses and other images intended to evoke strong responses in viewers, yet it also maintains the expected decorum in imaging diseased bodies and in asserting the critical importance of prayer against plague.

Sara Berkowitz (Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland at College Park), “Beyond the Bearded Lady: Figuring Medical and Gender Ambiguity in Jusepe de Ribera’s Portrait of Magdalena Ventura and her Husband (1631)”

This poster re-examines Jusepe de Ribera’s Portrait of Magdalena Ventura and her Husband (1631) in the context of early modern natural-philosophical and medical discourses on the body. The portrait depicts Magdalena with coarse facial features and a full dark beard, leading some scholars to suggest she suffered from hypertrichosis, a condition that produces excessive body hair. Yet, Ribera’s portrayal of an anatomically atypical breast positioned in the middle of Magdalena’s chest complicates this reading. The focus of this paper is to contextualize the particularities of Magdalena’s figuration within early modern attitudes on the female body’s susceptibility for physical change. The poster approaches this reinterpretation from the perspective of formal and symbolic analysis, contrasting Ribera’s depiction with other artistic and medical representations of documented infirmities from sources such as Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Monstrorum Historia. It also links Ribera’s depiction of Magdalena’s physical body and the painting’s accompanying Latin inscription to the capacity for humoral levels to change, particularly in the female sex. By employing 17th– century diagnostic manuals and neo-Aristotelian and Galenic models, this paper argues that Ribera’s portrait represents an early modern understanding of the links between external and internal bodily systems, and the body’s capacity for gender variance. This approach moves beyond the current preoccupation with segregating aberrant bodies into categories of the deformed, monstrous, or marvelous, and begins to account for how figures’ physical differences shaped medical and social definitions of the body and gender.

Sarah McBryde (School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London), “‘A Gifted Dwarf’ in the Court of Cosimo I de’Medici”

This poster investigates the role of dwarfs in the 16th -century Florentine court of the Medici Grand-dukes, focusing on a bronze statuette in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The figure, depicting a dwarf astride an owl, has been variously attributed to Valerio Cioli and Niccolò Tribolo, previously identified as Aesop, and argued to have been modelled loosely on Cosimo I de’ Medici’s dwarf, Il Morgante (Braccio di Bartolo). This paper argues that the work represents another dwarf in Cosimo’s retinue, Pietro Barbino. It explores contemporary perspectives on dwarfism, and challenges traditional evaluations of dwarf images as passive objects of ridicule, accoutrements of wealth, or generic grotesques. Unlike those with other physical disorders, such as conjoined twins, dwarfs were not temporarily exhibited as “monsters and marvels,” but permanently lodged within courts across Europe in the 15th through the 17th– centuries. Moreover, the scant references to dwarfism in Ambroise Paré and Ulisse Aldrovandi’s anthologies imply that dwarfism occupied a discrete category in contemporary perceptions of infirmity. Valued as lifelong companions and entertainers, dwarfs seem to have been endowed with a ‘special’ status by virtue of their condition and its ‘otherness,’ allowing them to undermine authority and defy social conventions. Rather than presenting him as an object of derision, Aesop, known for his wit and erudition, provided an ideal guise for Barbino. The statuette’s contrapposto pose, which directs mockery towards traditional Florentine heroic male nudes, aligns with this reading. Other iconographic elements reinforce this active potential by recalling the earlier trope of depicting dwarfs as armed companions of knights and kings. Additionally, the statuette’s materiality reprises classical/antique traditions in which dwarf images, often in the form of bronze figurines, were believed to have talismanic properties. This discussion aims to contribute to current art historical debates redefining the perception of dwarfs within Renaissance courts.


John Henderson is Professor of Italian Renaissance History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London; Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge; and Research Professor at Monash University, Melbourne. He has published a wide range of books and articles on the social, religious, and medical history of medieval and renaissance Tuscany. Major monographs include: Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Clarendon Press, 1994; Chicago UP, 1994; Italian translation: Le Lettere, 1994); The Great Pox. The French Disease in Renaissance Europe, with J. Arrizabalaga and R. French (Yale UP, 1997), and most recently: The Renaissance Hospital. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (Yale UP, 2006; German translation: Steiner Verlag, 2007; Odoya, 2016). He has also co-edited a number of volumes, including Christianity and the Renaissance (with T.V. Verdon), (Syracuse, 1990); The Impact of Hospitals in Europe 1000–2000: People, Landscapes, Symbols (with P. Horden and A. Pastore), (Peter Lang, 2006). He is at present completing a book on plague in early modern Florence for Yale UP.

Sheila Barker directs the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists at the Medici Archive Project. She has published on topics including plague and the art of Rome, St. Sebastian’s iconography, the use of icons during plagues, early American artists, medicine at the Medici court, ballet de cour, and early modern news. The artists she has written on include: Poussin, Bernini, Michelangelo, Artemisia Gentileschi, Irene Parenti Duclos, Plautilla Nelli, Lucrezia Quistelli, and Giovanna Garzoni. She is the editor of Artiste nel chiostro. Produzione artistica nei monasteri femminili in età moderna (Nerbini, 2016), Women Artists in Early Modern Italy. Careers, Fame, and Collectors (Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2016), and Artemisia Gentileschi in a Changing Light (Harvey Miller/Brepols, 2017). 

Evelyn Welch is Provost and Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences) at King’s College London. Professor Welch has led a range of major research programmes that include The Material Renaissance, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Getty Foundation, Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects, a £5.5 million AHRC strategic research programme which ran from 2005-2012, and the Humanities in the European Research Area Fashioning the Early Modern project. She has published extensively on European art and material culture including books such as Art in Renaissance Italy (Oxford UP, 2000), Shopping in the Renaissance (Yale UP, 2005), Making and Marketing Medicine in Renaissance Florence (Rodopi, 2011), Fashioning the Early Modern: Dress, Textiles and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800 (Oxford UP, 2017). Professor Welch currently serves as the Chair of Trustees of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and advises the Warburg Institute and the British Library. She is currently a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator working on a major project on “Renaissance Skin.”

Jonathan Nelson is a Faculty Associate at Syracuse University Florence and Research Associate at the Harvard Kennedy School. He has published extensively on Italian painting and sculpture in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, with specific interests in patronage and the representation of women. His books include The Patron’s Payoff: Economic Frameworks for Conspicuous Commissions in Renaissance Italy, with Richard Zeckhauser (Princeton UP, 2008), monographic studies on Filippino Lippi, with Patrizia Zambraono (Electa, 2004), Leonardo da Vinci (Giunti, 2007), and Plautilla Nelli (Syracuse UP, 2008, 2000); he also co-curated exhibition catalogs on Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form (teNeues, 2009), Botticelli and Filippino (Giunti, 2004), and Venus and Cupid: Michelangelo and the New Ideal of Beauty (Giunti, 2002). He is currently writing a monograph on Filippino Lippi: Problem Solving in Renaissance Art for Reaktion Books, and co-organizing a workshop on “Bad Reception: Negative Reactions to Italian Renaissance Art” at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz.

Danielle Carrabino is Associate Research Curator of European Art at the Harvard Art Museums and a specialist in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. She has curated numerous paper rotations throughout the museum and was the in-house curator of “Beyond Bosch: The Afterlife of a Renaissance Master in Print” (2016). In addition to her curatorial experience, she has taught art history at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the United States, England, and Italy. Her research interests include the Counter Reformation, the Hapsburg Empire, Caravaggio, Guercino, and Early Modern Sicily. Her publications include contributions to exhibition catalogs and articles and she recently completed her book manuscript, Caravaggio in Sicily: Paintings and Patronage.

Paolo Savoia is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at King’s College London, Department of History, where he is part of the “Renaissance Skin” project, funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by Evelyn Welch. He has studied history and philosophy at the Universities of Bologna and Pisa. He was awarded his PhD in the history of science from Harvard University, writing a dissertation on the history of plastic surgery in early modern Italy. His most recent publications concern surgical training in a sixteenth-century hospital and the practice of grafting in early modern surgery and botanical sciences. His forthcoming book, Uomini e chirurghi: medicina, dolore e bellezza nell’Italia moderna will be published in November.

Diana Bullen Presciutti is Senior Lecturer in Italian Renaissance art and visual culture at the University of Essex and 2017-2018 Melville J. Kahn Fellow at Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Her primary research addresses the visual culture of social problems in Renaissance Italy, focusing on civic ideology, popular piety, urban ritual, and intersections of class, gender, and cultural production. She is the author of Visual Cultures of Foundling Care in Renaissance Italy (Ashgate, 2015) and has published articles in Renaissance StudiesRenaissance Quarterly, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Artibus et Historiae. Her current book project, The Saint as Social Worker: Visual Hagiography and Social Problems in Renaissance Italy, contends that the visual representation of miracles performed by mendicant saints served in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy as a vehicle for contesting the public image of a number of social problems—problems like infertility, madness, gossip, and vendetta.

Fredrika Jacobs is Professor Emerita of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University. She has published a wide range of articles in journals such as Renaissance Quarterly, The Art Bulletin, Word & Image, and Artibus et Historiae. Additionally, she has contributed numerous essays to a variety of volumes of collected studies focused on Italian Renaissance art, aesthetics, and gender. Her books include: The Renaissance “Virtuosa’. Women Artists and the Language of Art History and Criticism (Cambridge UP, 1997/1999); The Living Image in Renaissance Art (Cambridge UP, 2005), and most recently Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge UP, 2013). Her current project, “The Subjective Objective,” considers the history of selected objects, such as shoes, mirrors, and pencils, as each has been represented in literary texts and a variety of images. 

Jenni Kuuliala is an Academy of Finland funded postdoctoral researcher at University of Tampere, Faculty of Social Sciences. Her primary research topics are late medieval and early modern dis/ability, hagiography, and healing practices. She has written articles on the history of childhood and early modern monasticism and is the author of Childhood Disability and Social Integration in the Middle Ages. Constructions of Impairments in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Canonization Processes (Brepols, 2016). Currently, she is completing a monograph on saints’ infirmities and the construction of sanctity in late medieval canonization testimonies (AUP, forthcoming).

Peter Howard is Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash University and Convener of the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He has published widely in the areas of Italian Renaissance history and medieval sermon studies, including Beyond the Written Word: Preaching and Theology in the Florence of Archbishop Antoninus (Olschki, 1995), Creating Magnificence in Renaissance Florence (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2012), and Experiencing Religion in Renaissance Florence: Theologies of the Piazza (Routledge, forthcoming). He has been a Fellow and also Visiting Professor, Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, a Fellow of the European University Institute, Florence, and a visiting scholar at the Istituto per le scienze religiose, Bologna. He currently leads the ‘Body in the City’ Focus Research Program in the Faculty of Arts, Monash University.

Michael Stolberg is chair of the history of medicine and director of the Institut für Geschichte der Medizin at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Originally trained as a physician, he obtained a PhD in history and philosophy in 1994 and worked as a researcher in Munich, Florence, Venice, and Cambridge, England. He is author, amongst others, of Experiencing Illness in Early Modern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, German orig. 2003) and Uroscopy in Early Modern Europe (Ashgate, 2015, German orig. 2009). Additionally, he has coedited a recent volume on Medical Practice, 1600-1900. Physicians and Their Patients (Brill, 2016). Since 2009, he has directed a 15-year database project on early modern physicians’ correspondences ( Drawing, in particular, on the personal notebooks and journals of medical students and practising physicians, his own research currently focusses on medical education and medical practice in the 16th century.

Margaret Bell is a PhD candidate at University of California Santa Barbara where she also received her MA in 2012.  Her Master’s thesis entitled “Through the Crystal Veil: Devotional Discipline and the Ambivalence of the Material Image on the Sacro Monte di Varallo” was published as an article in the California Italian Studies Journal (Vol. 5, 2014). Her dissertation research, which she is currently pursuing as a Samuel H. Kress fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence (2016-2018), centers on the fifteenth-century frescoes in the central ward of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, and the relationships among architecture, healing practices and visual representation.

Jennifer Gear is a PhD candidate in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation, “Visualizing the 1630-31 Plague Epidemic in Venice and the Veneto”, tracks the development and evolution of conventions in depicting plague in this region, including the disease’s continued cultural impact post-plague through the creation of commemorative works and memorials. Her forthcoming article in Renaissance Studies analyzes a plague retrospective painted at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco to demonstrate conceptual ties between painting practices and the performance arts in Seicento Venice. She is currently writing an essay on Domenico Tintoretto and plague to accompany an exhibition at the Scuola Grande di San Marco in 2018.

Sara Berkowitz is a PhD Candidate in Early Modern Italian Art at the University of Maryland at College Park. Her dissertation, entitled “Ambiguous Bodies: Gender Non-Conformity and Bodily Transformation in Early Modern Italian Art”, examines the impact of scientific and social constructions of the human body on artistic representations of gender-variant figures. She received her Master’s degree in Art History from Rutgers University in 2012. She has co-authored catalog essays for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Ackland Museum and published an article in her secondary field, Roman Art, on mythologically-themed executions in the Roman arena. 

Sarah McBryde is a first-year PhD student in the Department of History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London. She completed a Graduate Certificate in History of Art and Architecture followed by a Master’s Degree also at Birkbeck, graduating in 2016 and was awarded the Peter Murray Prize for her MA Dissertation. Prior to this she worked for over twenty years in theatre, film, and television drama production, notably for award-winning director Mike Leigh, after originally taking a BA (Hons) in Three-Dimensional Design: Ceramics at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art. Her PhD research project, which is provisionally titled: “A Visible Difference: Dwarfs in Early Modern Italian Court Culture”, aims to develop new perspectives on the role of dwarfs in the Renaissance courts of Italy, with particular focus on the Medici and Florence in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. 


RSA New Orleans 2018

22–24 March 2018 
Hilton New Orleans Riverside 

Our scholars will be represented at four sessions at RSA 2018, speaking on several of the core Program themes: Magnificent architecture, violence and the body in the city, and mapping space, movement, and experience in the Renaissance city.

Virtue and Wonder: Magnificent Architecture in the Early Modern Period

Chair: Alessandro Metlica, Università degli Studi di Padova

Organisers: Nele De Raedt, Ghent University; and Anne-Françoise Morel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Putting Up a Pose: The Prince’s Magnificent Palace in Fifteenth-Century Italy
Nele De Raedt, Ghent University

The Magnificence of Rupestral Architecture in late-medieval Sicily
Kristen Streahle, Cornell University

The Lure of Grandeur: Timotheo Maffei’s Praise of Florence
Peter F. Howard, Monash University

Violence and the Body in the City: 1300–1650

Sponsor: Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Organisers: Peter F. Howard, Monash University; and Jonathan Davies, University of Warwick

Chair: Peter F. Howard, Monash University

Geographies of Violence in Early Modern Pisa and Siena
Jonathan Davies, University of Warwick

Bodies of Evidence: Suspicious Death and Homicide in Early Modern Bologna
Colin S. Rose, Brock University

Selling Ballads about Execution and Death in the Urban Environment
Una McIlvenna, University of Melbourne

Mapping Space, Movement, and Experience: Living in the Renaissance City I

Sponsor: Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Organisers: Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto; and Colin S. Rose, Brock University

Chair: Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto

Mapping the City’s Wealth: The Spatial Organization of Cortona’s First Catasto
Daniel Bornstein, Washington University in St. Louis

The Catasto Generale Toscano and the Geographic Information Systems for the Urban History of Florence
Gianluca Belli, University of Florence

Architectural Technologies of Segregation in Early Modern Venice
Saundra L. Weddle, Drury University

The Confined Space: The City Surveyors and the Social Definition of Boundaries
Anna Pomierny-Wasinska, Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History in Warsaw

Mapping Space, Movement, and Experience: Living in the Renaissance City II

Sponsor: Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Organisers: Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto; and Colin S. Rose, Brock University

Chair: Colin S. Rose, Brock University

Resurrecting Rome: Pirro Ligorio’s Egyptian all’antica Imagery in Reconstructions of Roman Space
Catharine T. Wallace, Temple University

Mapping Sculpture in Medici Gardens
Catherine Walsh, University of Montevallo

Mapping Alterity in Early Renaissance Venice: Spatial Experience in Bellini’s Saint Mark Preaching in Alexandria
Camilla Sponza, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München