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Links to blogposts, articles and other 5-minute reads about Renaissance art, beautification and hygiene.

Did renaissance women remove their body hair?

Notoriously, on the wedding night of the celebrated art critic, John Ruskin and Effie Gray in 1848, Ruskin was so repelled by the sight of his bride’s body that he was unable to consummate the marriage. Effie Gray explained in a letter of five years later “he had imagined women […]

Sexual Assault and Hope for the Future in Titian’s Rape of Europe.

This is the text of a lecture I gave for a conference to consider the Titian: Love, Desire and Death exhibition at the National Gallery, London. If you’d prefer this in video form, you can see a recording of the lecture on YouTube. There’s a lot of rape imagery in […]

The wordlessness of grief in Michelangelo’s Pietà: Art Pickings 5

My colleagues and I have been each asked to choose an object that made us “#hookedonarthistory for the University of Edinburgh’s History of Art department’s social media account. It’s a lovely, fun thing with some brilliant answers from my colleagues, so I hesitated before choosing Michelangelo’s Vatican Pietà. There are […]

How to see people naked in Renaissance Italy

How to see naked men Seeing naked or near-naked men in the Renaissance does not seem to have been very difficult. I should point out that looking at naked people is not, necessarily, erotic. Indeed, the word for naked, nudo, in Italian had pejorative connotations, as suggested by the definition […]

Overlooking Women’s Labour in Sofonisba Anguissola’s Chess Game

Time is a terribly scarce commodity for those of us who spend our skills and labour equally on our families and our own work.Laura Cereta, Letter to Sigismondo de’ Bucci, 1486 It seems terribly modern, doesn’t it, a woman complaining about trying to do (“our own”) intellectual work whilst being […]

Blade Runner 2049 and the Renaissance Nude

 I am, perhaps, the only person to see Blade Runner 2049 who was constantly reminded of book 3 of Baldassare Castiglione’s Courtier. It wasn’t the replicants that did it, but the artificially intelligent hologram super-girl, Joi (Ana de Armas), who the hero, Office K (Ryan Gosling) keeps in a device in […]

African slavery and Italian nudes

I’ve been reading a lot about renaissance ideas about Africa today, last minute additions to a talk I’m giving at Glasgow Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies on Thursday. This is all for the book I’m writing on ideas about nakedness in renaissance Italy, and the development of the nude […]

Men with Breasts – Michelangelo’s women 2

So in the first part of this post, I’ve argued that Michelangelo’s women had access to female models, and that his use of male models for female figures wasn’t unusual. The other thing that is often mentioned in class is that Michelangelo was gay and thus somehow had an inbuilt distaste, […]

Men with Breasts (Or Why are Michelangelo’s Women so Muscular?) Part 1

When I give a talk, or run a class that includes work by Michelangelo, generally at some point someone will suggest that Michelangelo’s female figures look like “men with breasts”. I have to admit, that I sometimes deliberately task students with describing a picture of Michelangelo’s Night (right) just so […]

Leonardo’s Measure – The Genitals of Vitruvian Men

There seems to have been something of a genital fixation amongst commentators on Vitruvius’  in the 1490s and early 1500s. Vitruvius’ book on architecture was a favourite for many renaissance theorists, and his small passage about human proportion was revisited several times, notably by Leon Battista Alberti in his On […]

The Pitfalls of Genius: Leonardo and his frustrated patrons

I’m in the midst of giving several talks and papers – two in the last week, in Birmingham and Glasgow respectively, and one next week in Washington D.C. at the Renaissance Society of America conference. I thought I’d post my powerpoints here in a series of posts (as more manageable […]

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