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CSMBR | The Skin of Saint Bartholomew: Flaying Bodies in Early Modern Art and Anatomy
March 24 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
“The Skin of Saint Bartholomew: Flaying Bodies in Early Modern Anatomy and Art”
24 March 2022, 5 pm CET | Register here
Giulia Martina Weston – Courtauld and Sotheby’s Institutes of Art
St Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive after bringing Christianity to Armenia in the first century CE. While the saint is traditionally represented with his skin hung across his back or over his arm, often holding a scalpel, depictions of his martyrdom focus on the process of excoriation.
This talk sets out to explore the iconography of St Bartholomew, placing special emphasis upon skin and the act of skin removal. Classical sources, particularly those recounting the myth of Apollo and Marsyas, will be read against illustrations of anatomical treatises, such as those of Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabric (1543) and Juan Valverde de Hamusco’s Historia de la composición del cuerpo umano (1556).
On both hagiographic and iconographic ground, St Bartholomew reconciles Christian narrative with scientific enquiry and medical practice.
A first strand of this research is devoted to artists’ accuracy in the rendition of the saint’s skin, instruments of dissection, and internal anatomy, touching upon the intersections between the saint’s punishment and the écorché, an anatomical figure with the skin removed that reveals the location of the muscles.
Focusing on seventeenth-century paintings and works on paper, it will be ultimately argued that the flaying of St Bartholomew lends itself to artistic expressions which transcend the realm of mimesis. New light will be shed upon an unprecedented set of connections between this subject matter and painterly excellence and ingenuity.
New light will be shed upon an unprecedented set of connections between this subject matter and painterly excellence and ingenuity.