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    Representing infirmity in Early Modern Florence

    Henderson, John (2020) Representing infirmity in Early Modern Florence. In: Henderson, John and Jacobs, F. and Nelson, J.K. (eds.) Representing Infirmity: Diseased Bodies in Renaissance Italy. Body and the City. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780367470203. (In Press)

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    This chapter will take the visual representation of plague in early modern Florence as its point of departure, a topic which remains relatively under-studied compared with cities such as Milan, Naples, Rome and Venice. The aim is to raise wider questions about how disease and infirmity were represented through the twin themes of medicine and religion in the period around the last epidemic of plague to impact the Tuscan capital between 1630 and 1633. How far were specific, readily identified attributes of particular sicknesses represented, given contemporary humoural understanding of disease as a collection of symptoms rather than conditions with specific signs? Given that the vast majority of images we shall be considering were religious, in what ways did this imperative determine how sickness was or was not represented? The point of departure for this discussion will be how SS. Sebastian and Rocco were represented in a series of paintings in Florence and its surroundings. Many of these altarpieces were by Jacopo Vignali, one of the most prolific painters of subjects associated with disease and infirmity in this period. His work and that of other local artists are examined to discover how far the themes depicted in a range of subjects coincided or differed from the way that sickness and infirmity were represented in other parts of post-Tridentine Italy, with the greater emphasis on the sacraments and the role of physical healing. The chapter culminates with an examination of four major paintings by Jacopo Vignali, all commissioned for the pharmacy of the Convent of S. Marco. These images bring together the curative power of spiritual and physical medicine through the depiction of Tobias, Constantine, St. Agatha and the Good Samaritan, and thus raise the wider question of the relationship between the depiction of infirmity, wounds and physical suffering.


    Item Type: Book Section
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Plague art, Florence, early modern
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: John Henderson
    Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2020 09:47
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:01


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