On 13 December John Henderson (Birkbeck, University of London, and Monash University) delivered his highly anticipated keynote lecture to kick off the international conference “Representing Infirmity: Diseased Bodies in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy” held at the Monash University Prato Centre.
The lecture was hosted by the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and The Body in the City Focus Program at Monash Melbourne.
If you missed this highly engaging lecture, you can watch a recording of the lecture in full here.
“Religion, Medicine and Art in the Time of Plague: Florence 1630-33”
This lecture focuses on the last major epidemic of plague to affect Florence, 1630-33, at the time of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand II. Adopting a truly inter-disciplinary approach, John Henderson will begin by outlining the State’s policies to combat plague, including quarantine and isolation hospitals, to provide a context for the main theme of the lecture: the strategies adopted by Church and State to placate the wroth of God, seen as one of the main causes of plague. Official devotion centred on the Cathedral, SS. Annunziata, and S. Marco, which became sites of a wide range of important artistic commissions during and following the epidemic. These included chapels, altarpieces, frescoes, costly silver candlesticks, and more humble ex-voti. The themes of these commissions will be explored and in particular their emphasis on the representation of saintly figures and patrons and the extent to which they aimed to show the ravages of disease on the body of the sick. Finally he will ask how far did the religious reactions and subjects of the artistic commissions associated with plague in 17th-century Florence conform or differ from those adopted by other cities in early modern Italy.
John Henderson is Professor of Italian Renaissance History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London and Research Professor at Monash University, Melbourne. He has published a wide range of books and articles on the social, religious, and medical history of medieval and renaissance Tuscany. Major monographs include: Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Clarendon Press, 1994; Chicago UP, 1994; Italian translation: Le Lettere, 1994); The Great Pox. The French Disease in Renaissance Europe, with J. Arrizabalaga and R. French (Yale UP, 1997), and most recently: The Renaissance Hospital. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (Yale UP, 2006; Italian translation: Odoya, 2016). He is at present completing a book on plague in early modern Florence for Yale UP.