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Tue 14 March 2017, 19:00 – 20:30 GMT
Well into the late eighteenth century, skin was not conceptualised as a barrier; it was understood as a highly porous border. One of the distinctive features that emerges in the late sixteenth century is an increasing anxiety about the vulnerability of the Renaissance body to internal and external threats and the role that clothing and body care played in disease prevention. Key toilette rituals in the morning increased in importance in order to remove the excrements that emerged overnight and to prevent the closure of pores.
The role of the barber and barber surgeon was crucial in treating the exterior of the body, applying topical remedies and piercing its surfaces with a range of techniques designed to remove excessive blood or other fluids, including lancing, bleeding, cupping and applying cauteries to the swellings and other signs of disease that emerged on the skin.
At the same time, the absorbing power of clean linen was an equally important feature of maintaining health while the display of unbroken skin and the use of masks, prosthetics and patches demonstrated health and disguised the ravages of illnesses such as smallpox.
Demonstrating the complexities of approaches, this lecture will show how skin, whether dead or alive, animal or human, provides a focal point for a detailed, deep and broad study of how Renaissance bodies and their boundaries can be understood.