Research Stream

People

Emily Poore
The University of Queensland
Email

Andrea Bubenik (Full term)
The University of Queensland
Email

Partners

Cutting Emotions: Skin Wounds and Affect in the Visual Art of Northern Europe (1100–1550)

Devotional images depicting Christ and saints undergoing cruel and bloody torments were pervasive in medieval and renaissance Europe. This thesis explores the pictorial strategies employed by northern artists such as Dieric Bouts, Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald to direct the emotional responses of viewers of violent devotional images and asks to what extent their strategies influenced medical illustrations of skin.

Emily Poore banner.jpg

Paintings, prints and sculptures depicting Christ and saints undergoing cruel and bloody torments were a ubiquitous feature of the visual culture of medieval and renaissance Europe. These vivid images were adored and caressed by their viewers, and inspired them to feel a range of emotions including grief, compassion and even marital love, as a means to fortify their commitment to God and to accumulate indulgences. The pervasive influence of Christian doctrine on depictions of wounded and broken skin was not limited to ecclesiastical settings. Even while illustrating the symptoms of cutaneous disease, such as leprosy or syphilis, artists of the period eschewed rational, objective depictions in favour of dramatic representations influenced by religious art.

This project argues that Medieval and Renaissance artists treated the surface of the skin like a theatre for the performance of emotional dramas, rather than a rational surface ripe for empirical investigations. It explores the pictorial strategies employed by northern European artists to intensify the emotional experiences of the viewers of devotional images, and seeks to discover how these techniques were also applied to invest medical images with emotional messages. As this project will show, gruesome images of wounds could evoke fears and anxieties, be uplifting and calming, and could offer healing and comfort when viewed in different contexts.  

People

Dr Andrea Bubenik,Principal Advisor 
Dr Karin Sellberg, Associate Advisor

 

Image: Albrecht Dürer, detail of Syphilitic Man (1496), hand-coloured woodcut with text by Theodoricus Ulsenius. Wellcome Library, London. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/