Workshop | Uncovering the Animal: Skin, Fur, Feathers 1450-1700

The study of animal skin is a core component of the Renaissance Skin project (funded by the Wellcome Trust), which aims to understand how animal and human skin was conceptualised and used in a globalised world between 1450 and1700.

We have been examining animal skin through various themes, such as the use of animal skin, fur, and feathers in the leather, fur, felt, and featherwork industries; how domestic husbandry animals (mainly horses and cattle) might be bled and cupped to purge their humours like their human counterparts; diseases that might affect the skin of animals and their cures (mange, scabies, murrain); and theoretical discussions on the composition of animal skin and its ‘coverings’, including fur, shells, and the scales of the rhinoceros or the armadillo. So far we have examined a range of primary sources from agrarian manuals, medical treatises, veterinary texts on anatomy and treatment, works on natural history, and furriers’ accounts to iconography and objects made from animal skin and fur themselves, from buff-skin coats to shark-skin sword grips

Feather mosaic triptych, Mexico, 16th century. It was created by indigenous featherworkers who adapted pre-Columbian techniques to Christian use.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 88.3.1. Gift of Coudert Brothers, 1888 (view original

We are organising a half-day workshop on the 29 June 2018 to bring together scholars who study the many facets of animal skin. As the Renaissance Skin project examines the issue from various historiographical approaches, using textual, material, and visual evidence, we hope to gather researchers from many different disciplines with the aim to facilitate lively conversation on animal skin and open the field to a wider audience.

Speakers will be Lianming Wang (Heidelberg) on kingfisher feathers at the Qing court, Stefan Hanß (Cambridge) on Iberian and Peruvian feather-work, Patricia Lurati (Zürich) on fur in Renaissance art, Thomas Rusbridge (Birmingham) on shagreen in early modern England, Cristina Bastante (La Sapienza) on nautilus shells, Sara Ayres (National Portrait Gallery) on fur and the Courtly Hunt, and Natalie Lawrence on early modern pangolins. For further information on the event, visit our website.

Registration for the event is now live – please follow this link.

Follow us on Twitter @RenSkinKCL and to keep up-to-date on the workshop use #uncoveringanimals.

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