This gallery-based course will engage with visual representations of the body from the period 1600 to 1850. Exploring disparate art objects, including wax models from the Victoria & Albert Museum, portraits from the National Gallery, and medical illustrations from the Wellcome Collection and the British Museum, students will get acquainted with a variety of artistic practices.
We will investigate the main themes that accompany humanity’s relationship with the materiality of its corporeal existence through a loosely chronological structure. Engaging closely with art objects, students will explore issues such as early modern medical history, political developments, and questions of patronage. This course aims to provide a solid historical background and basic art historical methodologies, and will be particularly attentive to the implications of representing the body through different materials and technologies.
Weeks 1-3 will focus on the rise of a new interest for interiority and selfhood. Departing from an analysis of Dϋrer and his legacy, students will look at illustrations, engravings, and drawings that disassemble the body in order to unveil its internal workings. Weeks 4-6 will consider the politics of representing the body in art. Discussing artists such as Bronzino, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Poussin, this section will analyse the underlying ideologies that coexist with the rise of portraiture, and the emergence of a problematic relationship between body and nature. Weeks 7-10, finally, will consider various artistic experimentations with the bodily frame in the works of, among others, Goya, Turner, and Rossetti.