For the Renaissance Skin project and indeed the rest of the world, 2020 was a year of cancelled plans and adaptation. The beginning of the year was full of preparation and hope for research trips to come, all of which had to be cancelled come March. Whilst the effects of Covid-19 were sadly detrimental to the archival work planned (including a cancelled research trip to Mexico for Sebestian Kroupa and a cancelled project team trip to Spain), 2020 yielded successful collaboration with five reading groups still taking place (four over Zoom), valuable progress made towards publications, and a successful bid for a Diversity & Inclusion grant.
The advent of the virtual reading group was an unexpected benefit of the 2020 lockdowns; the inability to meet in person arguably led to greater reaching collaboration, with meetings taking place with larger numbers and with scholars from all over the world. Our first virtual group took place in May, when we were joined by Dr Katherine Dauge-Roth of Bowdoin College to discuss her book Signing the Body: Marks on Skin in Early Modern France. Attended by around 30 scholars from a broad variety of disciplines, the group generated rich conversation about early modern skin marking practices. Later in the year we were joined by Dr Erin Griffey of the University of Auckland, who discussed her work-in-progress on early modern wrinkle removal and skin rejuvenation recipes. Connections such as these were a significant benefit of a year where virtual meetings became the norm and are one new practice we will take from a time of otherwise cancelled plans (although we wouldn’t say no to a discussion around a table accompanied by a glass of wine, when we can).
Our project team were also able to attend conferences and give presentations in this new virtual world. Whilst Evelyn Welch and the University of Melbourne’s Early Modern Circle were lucky to hold Evelyn’s talk ‘Renaissance Wrinkles’ in person in February, the remainder of the team’s lectures took place online. In August, Kathleen Walker-Meikle attended the European Society for The History of Science's conference virtually to deliver her talk ‘Seeing skin: Diagnosing diseases of enslaved people in 17th-century Cartagena’. In November, Hannah Murphy gave a talk on 'Surgeons and Scarification; Skin Marking in Early Modern Medical Travel Narratives' at the York Centre for Early Modern Studies. Following the announcement of Sebestian Kroupa as one of two winners of the Santorio Award for Excellence in Research, Sebestian gave his Santorio Award Lecture at the virtual Viva Mente Conference, in November.
In publication news, Evelyn Welch’s chapter "The Drama of Infirmity: Cupping in Sixteenth-Century Italy" was published in John Henderson, Frederika Jakobs and Jonathan K. Nelson’s Representing Infirmity: Diseased Bodies in Renaissance Italy. Hannah Murphy’s "Skin and Disease in Early Modern Medicine: Jan Jessen's De cute et cutaneis affectibus (1601)" appeared in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, published Summer 2020, and Hannah’s book ‘’A New Order of Medicine: The Rise of Physicians in Reformation Nuremberg’’ was announced as winner of the Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial Book Prize, 2020.
In project team news, 2020 began with the appointment of Research Fellow Sebestian Kroupa, who joined us having completed his doctorate at Cambridge on the career of the Jesuit pharmacist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706). Sebestian replaced Paolo Savoia, who we are happy to announce took up a permanent post at the University of Bologna. Also in January 2020, Research Fellow Kathleen Walker-Meikle took up a 6-month Wellcome Trust Secondment Fellowship at the V&A Research Institute, working on the theme ‘Age and Ageing’ through the museum’s collections. Due to Covid-19, this was extended by a further 6 months. We are happy to welcome Kathleen back to the project this January 2021.
In February, we said goodbye to Researcher Juliet Claxton after 3 years with the project. Missing the valuable detailed research support which Juliet brought to the project, we are now in the final stages of hiring for a new Research Assistant post, who we look forward to welcoming to the team shortly.
And finally, we are proud to announce that after 4 years with the project, Hannah Murphy left in December 2020 to take up her UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship ‘Medicine and the Making of Race, 1440-1720’. This is an incredible achievement, and we are excited that Renaissance Skin has generated a new generation of skin scholars. To recognise Hannah’s huge contribution and to acknowledge her continuing role on the project, Evelyn has asked Hannah to become Co-Investigator for Renaissance Skin. You can read about Hannah’s new project here.
forward to 2021, we are now entering the concluding stage of the Renaissance
Skin project. However, we are far from ‘winding-down’, with a busy year ahead.
Last year’s successful bid for a Wellcome Trust Research
Enrichment – Diversity & Inclusion grant means we have some exciting
events in the pipe-line. These include collaboration
with artist-practitioner and performer Peter Brathwaite whose online "Rediscovering Black Portraiture" series inspired our bid. With this,
further reading groups and workshops, and a large closing conference planned
for the Autumn, the Renaissance Skin project has hopes for a fruitful year
We wish you
all health and safety for the year to come, and hope to welcome as many of you
as possible to our project’s concluding events, be they constrained to the
virtual world or otherwise.
The Renaissance Skin Team