‘The All-Seeing Eye’: Registration now open

Registration and the full program for The All-Seeing Eye: Vision and Eyesight Across Time and Cultures Workshop on April 11 is now available. The program is hosted by some friends and members of the Effaced team at Swansea University, David M. Turner and Gemma Almond. We will be looking forward to hearing from the fantastic speakers.

Posted in Uncategorized, conferences, events, Contemporary, Early Modern, Modern, medieval, Classical | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

CFP Portraiture: an Interdisciplinary Conference

A relevant call for papers for those interested in faces:

Portraiture: an Interdisciplinary Conference

This will be hosted by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture at the University of Durham, 13-15 July 2018. The CFP specifies that:

Proposals may deal with any period and location. Papers are especially welcome that explore the interdisciplinary potential of studying portraiture and that address the following themes:

The ways portraits create, sustain and comment on occupational identity

Portraits and/in institutions

‘Portrait’ as an idea and its metaphorical dimensions

Portraits where the face is not present

Portraiture in the North East of the UK

Comparative approaches to portraiture, which might focus on place, time, occupation, race, social status and/or gender, for example.

The full call for papers is available here. Contact cav@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

CFP closes 1 March 2018.

Posted in Classical, conferences, Contemporary, Early Modern, events, medieval, Modern, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Conference Report: The Porous Body in Early Modern Europe

A belated report on The Porous Body in Medieval Europe. Trish and Emily had the pleasure of attending the first conference for the Renaissance Skin project led by Professor Evelyn Welch at King’s College London. The conference aimed “to consider the porousness of the early modern body as physiologically, emotionally, and socially constituted, depicted in art, debated in print and played out in a dizzying array of social practices”. The face, as the most exposed part of the skin in everyday life, unsurprisingly made several appearances.

Jemma Field (Brunel University) and Erin Griffey (University of Auckland) discussed the skincare regimes of queens Anna of Denmark and Henrietta Maria, respectively, drawing attention to the wide range of cosmetic and reparative recipes their used on their faces, along with protective measures such as veils, masks and hats. Giffey also drew attention to a profile portrait of the queen painted by van Dyck in 1638–the same period in which her physician, Sir Theodore de Mayerne, records treating a rash on her right cheek. Van Dyck records significant trouble in getting Henrietta Maria to sit at this time, leading Giffey to suggest that she may indeed have been putting him off until her temporary disfigurement had subsided. Along with the third paper in their panel, from Romana Sammern (University of Salzburg), these presentations provided ample material to stress the importance of the female face and the efforts put in to maintain beauty.

During the discussion following this panel it was noted that the historians of skin were often thwarted by a lack of first-hand accounts of skin problems. This was especially true of ‘everyday’ routines and occurrences, which no one thought to write down in their letters, diaries etc. As an example, Welch remarked on the absence of records for teenage acne. Does this suggest that teenagers in early modern Europe did not actually experience the same level of acne as now? Or that it was so ubiquitous that it was not worth mentioning, and became invisible? Or…? (Oh for a renaissance Adrian Mole, I thought!).

The management of hair was another area that overlapped with some of the Effaced team’s interests. Kathryn Woods (University of Warwick) traced changing conceptions of hair and the extent to which it formed ‘part’ of the body, including the relationship of such ideas to the acceptability of wigs made from another person’s hair. Meanwhile Alun Withey (University of Exeter) outlined some of the many ‘technologies of the body’ employed by eighteenth-century people to shape their bodies and especially their faces into socially acceptable forms.

The Renaissance Skin team are only one year into their Wellcome Trust funding, so we look forward to following their progress.

Posted in Body, conferences, Early Modern, events, Representation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

University of Exeter event: ‘Disfigured Faces: Modern and Early Modern’

Two members of the Effaced team will be presenting this Wednesday, 6 December, as part of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Medical History seminar series.

Disfigured Faces: Modern and Early Modern, presented by Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Birkbeck) and Dr Michelle Webb (Exeter). 1- 3pm, Digital Humanities Seminar Room 2. 

The abstracts are included below, and the poster is available here.

Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Birkbeck), ‘Facelessness in Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage‘.

The first facial transplant, using a donor’s nose, chin and mouth, was performed on Isabelle Dinoire in France in 2005, but the idea of removing or replacing the face – either with a mask, or a living face – has been around for much longer. This paper begins to map the cultural ‘pre-history’ of the face transplant, focusing on the idea and image of facelessness in Georges Franju’s classic horror film Les yeux sans visage (1959). Franju’s film sits uneasily within the academic history of plastic surgery, but as a cultural text it reveals a great deal about popular perceptions of disfigurement and experimental surgery – and the intimate relationship between disgust, horror and visual pleasure.

Suzannah Biernoff is Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London and co-director of Birkbeck’s Medical Humanities Research Group. Her research has spanned medieval and modern periods: she is the author of Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages (Palgrave, 2002), while her recent publications pursue the themes of corporeal history and visual anxiety in the context of First World War Britain. In 2007 she was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award for a project on the cultural history of disfigurement. Open access articles from this project have been published in the journals Visual Culture in Britain, Social History of Medicine and Photographies, and an essay on Nina Berman’s Marine Wedding appeared in the edited volume Ugliness: The Non-beautiful in Art and Theory. Her latest book, Portraits of Violence: War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement, was published by the University of Michigan Press earlier this year in their Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series.


Dr Michelle Webb, ‘A Noseless Man named Thomas Ford’: Facial Disfigurement in Early Modern England’.

In October 1639 Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, recorded in his diary the details of the latest improvements to his house in Dorset: ‘I gaue 40li in part of 50li to haue a bowling green made me at Stalbridge, by a noseles man, named Thomas ford’. In his diary for that year, Boyle detailed his interactions with several hundred individuals, including men, women, close family members, near strangers, the King, the Queen, and a ‘poor ragged boye’ who was to be taken on as an apprentice cook.  Of this great multitude, he mentioned the physical appearance of only one person – Thomas Ford.

This paper will explore the experience of, and reactions to, facial difference in early modern England. What was it like to be, to encounter, or to treat ‘a noseles man’ like Thomas Ford? Would a noseless woman have been written about in the same way? And were there non-visual implications of a missing nose that contributed to the stigmatization of individuals such as Thomas Ford? This paper will argue that issues relating to gender and to the emotions are central to the study of facial disfigurement.

Michelle Webb has recently completed an AHRC funded PhD in Medical History at the University of Exeter, researching facial disfigurement in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. She is currently teaching at Exeter and planning a new project on early modern medicine and the emotions.

Posted in Early Modern, events, Modern, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Event! ‘Making Faces: Beauty Lost and Found’

As part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, the Effaced team is hosting a public event at Swansea University on 22 November 2017. Making Faces: Beauty Lost and Found will introduce members of the public to the fascinating world of the face– from medieval beauty regimes to the disfiguring effects of work, historic dentistry, and the changing attitudes towards spectacles. We’ll also see the results of our Make a Face competition.

Changing Faces will also be involved, inviting people to take their implicit bias test, and showing some of the portraits from their wonderful Portrait Positive project.

To book for this Free Event, visit the event website.


Posted in Changing Faces, Classical, Contemporary, Early Modern, events, Media, medieval, Modern, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment