Research Stream

Louise Marshall

Louise Marshall is an Associate Investigator (2012 and 2014) and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art History and Film Studies at the University of Sydney, where she teaches courses on medieval and Renaissance art. She is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (BA Honours, First Class, 1981; MA Honours, First Class, 1982) and undertook her doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania, completing her thesis under the supervision of Leo Steinberg (1989). Her primary field of research is Renaissance plague images, on which she is currently writing a book, and on which she has published many articles, essays and catalogue entries. Recent publications include articles in Renaissance Studies (2013), arguing for the identification of a painting by Sienese artist Giovanni di Paolo as a plague miracle, and Artibus et Historiae (2012), looking at a neglected cycle of paintings by Venetian master Tintoretto, which were designed to frame worshippers’ approach to the relics of the hugely popular plague protector, St Roch, in the confraternity church of San Rocco, Venice. She has also published on the earliest representations of purgatory as a new place in the geography of the afterlife, as well as studies on the devotional image of Christ carrying the cross in Renaissance art and fourteenth-century frescoes in Pistoia. Her research has been recognised with a Samuel Kress Fellowship from the Renaissance Society of America and a Commonwealth Scholars’ Grant for Research in Venice and the Veneto from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, UK. She has been an Associate Investigator of the Centre of the History of Emotions since 2012.

Louise’s research explores the emotional and psychological effects of the return of bubonic plague to Western Europe, after centuries of absence, with the infamous Black Death of 1348—which not only killed up to a third of the population, but marked the onset of a European-wide pandemic, where plague was to recur at regular intervals until well into the eighteenth century. Previous research focused on the economic, social and political effects of bubonic plague, but paid little attention to the more intangible emotional and psychological responses. Since earlier societies knew nothing of the actual etiology of the disease, scholars have tended to assume that the Black Death and later epidemics left survivors prey to anxiety and despair. Yet visual images created to petition heavenly protection against the disease—whether from local or specialist saints, like Sebastian and Roch, or the all-powerful Virgin, or Christ himself, who might persuade the angry Father to mercy—tell a rather different story, broadcasting positive messages of consolation, hope and salvation as well as warnings to beware and exhortations to repent. Louise’s projects with the CHE investigate the emotional dynamics of these images to shed new light on the coping strategies of early modern men and women faced with the ongoing disaster of the plague.



Trouble in Heaven: Emotions and the Plague in Renaissance Italy

Emotions and the Visual in Early Modern Europe, in Crisis and in Health

Selected Publications

Marshall, L. ‘Affected Bodies and Bodily Affect: Visualizing Emotion in Renaissance Plague Images’.  In Performing Emotions in Early Europe, edited by P. Maddern†, J. McEwan and A. M. Scott, pp. 73–103. Turnhout: Brepols, 2018.

Marshall, L. ‘God’s Executioners: Angels, Devils and the Plague in Giovanni Sercambi’s Illustrated’.  In Disaster, Death and the Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, 1400–1700, edited by C. Zika and J. Spinks, pp. 177–99. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.