Renaissance Skin is a 5-year research project funded by a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award. Based at King’s College London, the project is led by Professor Evelyn Welch. Over the 5 years, we will study the wide range of ways in which skin, both animal and human, was conceptualised and used in Europe between 1450 and 1700, a period of enormous change in terms of global contacts and connections, and scientific innovation.
Professor Evelyn Welch
Principal InvestigatorWebsite Email Twitter
- Renaissance and early modern visual and material culture
- Medical Humanities
- Dress and Fashion
Professor Welch graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Renaissance History and Literature (Magna cum Laude) and received her PhD from the Warburg Institute, University of London. She has taught at the Universities of Essex, Birkbeck, Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London, where she served as Dean of Arts and Vice-Principal for Research and International Affairs before taking on the role of Provost and Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences) at King’s College London.
Professor Welch has led a range of major research programmes including The Material Renaissance which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Getty Foundation, Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects, a £5.5 million AHRC strategic research programme which ran from 2005-2012 and the Humanities in the European Research Area Fashioning the Early Modern project. She has published extensively on European art and material culture including books such as Art in Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 200), Shopping in the Renaissance (Yale, 2005), Making and Marketing Medicine in Renaissance Florence (Rodopi, 2011), Fashioning the Early Modern: Dress, Textiles and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800 (Oxford, 2017). Professor Welch currently serves as the Chair of the Warburg Institute Advisory Council, Chair of Trustees of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and sits on the British Library Advisory Board . She is currently the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator working on a major project on Renaissance Skin.
Evelyn Welch leads the project and will be publishing a number of essays, articles and books as part of Renaissance Skin including articles underway on:
- ‘Smoking, Snuffing and
the Smell of Masculinity in Early Modern Europe’
- ‘Breaking Skin in
Early Modern Europe’
Dr Hannah Murphy
Co-Investigator Renaissance SkinWebsite Email
- Science and medicine in Early Modern Europe
- Skin in the formation of professional medical expertise
- Skin colour in early modern medicine
- Early modern medical practitioners and practical structures of ''race-making''
I am a historian of early modern Europe, with expertise in pre-modern science and medicine. I did my undergraduate degree in my home country of Ireland (TCD), before heading to the States for a PhD in Berkeley, where I was a Fulbright Scholar. Before joining the Renaissance Skin team, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford. My interest in early modern medicine revolves around the role it plays in creating modern structures of authority. I've written about skin disease, pre-modern medical expertise, artisans, and material texts. My most recent article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine centres on Jan Jessen and an early treatise on skin disease. My first book, A New Order of Medicine: The Rise of Physicians in Reformation Nuremberg, recently appeared with the University of Pittsburgh Press and was the winner of the 2020 Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial Book Prize.
As the lead researcher on the project, I take an interest in all things 'skin'. In the earlier stages of our project, my work focused on the medical culture of skin in Reformation Germany - how vernacular knowledge, epidemic disease and changing scholarly practices contributed to a new focus on skin disease. I have an article forthcoming on this subject in Bulletin for the History of Medicine, and I am editing a collection of essays on "Skin in Early Modern Medicine", featuring everything from leprosy to dog-mange. More recently, I've begun to examine broad trends in European medical writers' engagement with "Global Skins". This interest led to a major conference in September 2019. I'm currently working on two article-length projects on this: one on the treatment of 'skin before colour' in early dermatological treatises, the other on the reconceptualization of "African" materia medica in the sixteenth century.
Rebecca has worked at King’s College London in project based roles since 2015, and holds a PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification in project management. As project manager, Rebecca 's role involves organising project events and activities, all external and internal communication, and financial management.
- Late medieval and early modern history
- Renaissance studies
- Historical animal studies
- Gender history
- History of medicine and veterinary medicine
Sarah Cockram is a historian of the late medieval and early modern periods, particularly of Renaissance Italy, specialising in gender history and historical animal studies. Sarah has held a lectureship and fellowships at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Sarah examined questions of gender and statecraft in her first book, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: Power Sharing at the Italian Renaissance Court (Ashgate, 2013), and Sarah has recently published on Isabella d'Este's sartorial politics.
Her research led Sarah to ask questions about the role of animals in projecting power, looking for instance at horses, dogs, birds, and exotic megafauna. Sarah was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for her project ‘Courtly Creatures: Animals and Image Construction in Renaissance Italy’ and she is now finishing a monograph on this topic.
Sarah’s article on interspecies communication and the expertise of
handlers of exotic animals - such as mahouts, lion tamers, and the trainers of
hunting cheetahs - won the SRS Renaissance Studies Article Prize2017.
Her research in historical animal studies and (often transnational) courtly creatures also concentrates on companion animals and Sarah published on sleeve cats and lapdogs in the volume which she edited with Andrew Wells, Interspecies Interactions: Animals and Humans between the Middle Ages and Modernity (Routledge, 2018).
Sarah’s recent research has focussed on fashion and diplomacy, and on her current interests in interspecies interactions - including questions of animal emotion and the senses; animals of war; affection for companion animals; and the care of exotic animals (such as elephants, big cats, rhinos, civets). The Renaissance Skin project is an excellent home for such work.
Skin had a multiplicity of meanings in Renaissance Europe, where it was often seen as a mesh rather than a barrier. One example that illustrates this is when considering hair. In this period, hair was regarded as a vapour that hardened after passing through the pores of the scalp. And so, Renaissance treatises on skin included baldness, as well as pox, when discussing diseases.
The connections and divide between human and animal skin are also key to our understanding of how skin was characterised, leading to broader questions of what separated men and women from beasts.
The project explores
- The changing notions of human and animal skin in Europe between 1450 and 1700 through textual, material, and visual evidence;
- The ways in which human and animal skins were connected, differentiated, and displayed both morally and physically;
- The concepts of colour and complexion in an increasingly globalised world;
- The relationship between diseases that disfigured the surfaces of the body, skin care, cosmetics, and clothing.
The aim for our 5 years is to create an interdisciplinary, medical humanities approach to Renaissance skin (human and animal) in Europe, 1450-1700, and break down the divide between the study of human and animal skin diseases.
This site is designed, on a practical level, to keep you informed of our events and other activities that we run or are engaged with. In the Updates section, you will find informal reports on research visits to museums or elsewhere and on seminars or workshops that various team members have attended. We are keen to open conversation on our research and the material that we use, and so the Themes section is intended to serve as a portal into some of our findings. Here, under the categories of ‘Defining’, ‘Breaking’, ‘Living’, ‘Consuming’, ‘Protecting’, and ‘Misbehaving’, you will discover sources that we have found interesting and have helped to shape our thinking. Thumbnail images of the sources within each category appear to the right of the screen, allowing you to jump to a particular source, or you can simply explore them all by scrolling down through the page. Clicking on the main image of the source will pull up a larger version – allowing you to focus on the details – and from here you can scroll through each source in a linear fashion. Crucially, this is an evolving resource and so we urge you to revisit often to discover what new material we have chosen to share.
Follow us on Twitter @RenSkinKCL to be alerted on new updates.
We are grateful for continued input and guidance from our Advisory Board:
- Professor Jonathan Barker, King’s College London (About)
- Professor Steve Connor, University of Cambridge (About)
- Professor Kevin Siena, Trent University (About)
- Professor Abigail Woods, University of Lincoln (About)
We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Wellcome Trust for generously funding this 5-year project.