Seminars, Schools and Summer Series

Body Ideal and The Suffering Body – The Nude in Early Modern Italian Art

  • Begins: Monday 23 October 2017
    Until: Monday 13 November 2017
    (4 sessions on Monday afternoons, 2pm - 4pm)
  • Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD
  • Lecturer: Dr Katarzyna (Kasia) Murawska-Muthesius

As claimed by Kenneth Clark, the nude is not the subject of art, ‘but an art form, invented by the Greeks in the fifth century BC, just as opera is an art form invented in seventeenth-century Italy’.

These four weekly meetings, run as seminars rather than lectures, will re-examine this statement in a small group of around twenty participants. We will begin by looking at the centrality of the nude in the art of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque, its alignment with the notion of the ideal beauty, and its lofty academic credentials as the demonstration of mastery.

The following seminars will depart from the concept of the nude as ‘pure form’ to examine the representation of the naked body, both male and female, as a vessel to convey ideas, emotions, passions and religious beliefs, as well as gender hierarchies and the shifting rules of conduct.

We will revisit the iconic nudes of Early Modern Italian art, discussing them as ‘texts’, as the expressions of power, virtuosity, fertility and eroticism, but also as the most poignant visualisations of suffering, despair, submissiveness, disease, rape, pain and death.

Among the artists discussed will be Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Michelangelo, Giorgione, Titian, Annibale and Agostino Carracci, Caravaggio, Bernini, and Artemisia Gentileschi.

  • 23rd October  Body Beautiful: The Nude and the Naked
  • 30th October  The Heroic Body
  • 6th November The Suffering Body
  • 13th November The Body of Love and the Body of Rape


Dr Katarzyna (Kasia) Murawska-Muthesius is an Associate lecturer at Birkbeck. Born in Poland, she was Curator of Italian Paintings, the Chief Curator, and Deputy Director of the National Museum in Warsaw. She joined Birkbeck in 2000, teaching and co-managing the Certificate of Higher Education in the History of Art. She has also lectured in universities in Italy, France, Germany and the US. Her books include Trionfo Barocco (1990), Companion Guide to the National Museum in Warsaw (1998), Borders in Art, or revising Kunstgeographie (2000), Kantor was here (2011). Her current research focuses on caricature.

Waiting list only

This event is fully booked. Members may apply for one of the limited number of waiting list places, but no payment should be made. If a place becomes available, the waiting list will be contacted in chronological order and payment will be requested at that time. Please contact the event organiser if in doubt.

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seminar outline PDF


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