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Skin in Medieval and Early Modern Worlds

A conference at The University of Western Australia.


Date: Saturday 13 October 2018
Venue: Arts Lecture Room 6 (G.62, Ground Floor, Arts Building), The University of Western Australia
Registration: Standard: $40; Concession: $25 (including PMRG members, students, poverty-stricken ECRs and the unwaged)
Enquiries: pmrg.cmems.conference@gmail.com
Keynote Speaker: Dr Lisa Beaven (La Trobe University), ‘Skin and Stone: Metamorphosis and the Villa Culture of Seventeenth-Century Rome’.

Register here

Go to the PMRG conference site



Skin as a material served a vital role in premodern economies. It was an essential ingredient in clothing and tools, and it formed the primary material for the manuscripts on which knowledge and ideas were recorded and preserved. Beyond the many uses for the skins of animals, the idea of skin interested artists, scholars and theologians. As a boundary or surface, skin presented a range of symbolic possibilities. Images of skin, such as its piercing, often acted as metaphors for the uncovering of secrets or the interpretation of allegory. Premodern observers, likewise, often believed that the appearance and colour of an individual’s skin indicated truths about their inner nature. Diseases of the skin, such as leprosy, attracted legislation and intellectual speculation, drawing together the immaterial world of ideas regarding skin and the treatment of actual human skins.

This conference will address the many premodern uses of skin, as well representations of and ideas about skin. It is multidisciplinary and wide-ranging; welcoming papers from the fields of book culture and manuscript studies, history, material culture, medicine, art and literature.

Lisa Beaven is Lecturer in Art History at La Trobe University. She has previously taught at the Universities of Melbourne and Auckland. She was the 2008 Trendall Fellow at the British School at Rome and from 2014–2018 was a postdoctoral research fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions at The University of Melbourne. Dr Beaven’s research interests are focused on seventeenth-century Rome, with a particular interest in patronage and collecting. She is also interested in the issue of false relics, the relationship between the church and antiquarian circles in Rome, and emotional responses to paintings and sculpture in the early modern period. She has ongoing research projects on landscape painting and the ecology of the Roman Campagna, the market for relics in seventeenth-century Rome, and space and the senses in the baroque city. With Joan Barclay Lloyd, she has studied travel and the built environment of Rome; with Angela Hesson she studied love objects for the exhibition ‘Love: Art of Emotion 1400–1800’ (2017); and with Angela Ndalianis, she undertook the ARC Discovery project: ‘Experiencing Space: Sensory Encounters from Baroque Rome to Neo-Baroque Las Vegas’. In 2010, she published An Ardent Patron: Cardinal Camillo Massimo and his Artistic and Antiquarian Circles in Rome (Paul Holberton Publishing, 2010). Her collection, Emotion and the Seduction of the Senses, Baroque to Neo-Baroque (edited with Angela Ndalianis) was published by Medieval Institute Press in 2018.

Presented by The University of Western Australia's Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMEMS) and the Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group (PMRG), with support from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE).

Associated events sponsored by IAS UWA/PMRG/CMEMS/CHE

Image: Initial D: A Woman Feeding a Leper in Bed, c.1275–1300. Courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Museum.