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Ghadessi, Touba

Portraits of Human Monsters in the Renaissance

Dwarves, Hirsutes, and Castrati as Idealized Anatomical Anomalies

Series:Monsters, Prodigies, and Demons: Medieval and Early Modern Constructions of Alterity


    90,00 € / $99.00 / £80.00*

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    November 2019
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    Aims and Scope

    At the center of this interdisciplinary study are court monsters - dwarves, hirsutes, and misshapen individuals - who, by their very presence, altered Renaissance ethics vis-à-vis anatomical difference, social virtues, and scientific knowledge. These monsters evolved from objects of curiosity, to scientific cases, to legally independent beings. Although many images of and writings about these individuals depict them as jokes of nature or indices of courtly wit, others transcend these categories, combining a vocabulary of courtly self-fashioning with close observations akin to dissections that humanize monsters, while simultaneously stressing their anatomical difference. More importantly, the works examined in this book point to the intricate cultural, religious, ethical, and scientific perceptions of monstrous individuals who were fixtures in contemporary courts. From entertainers to advisors, and from faithful companions to collectible objects, monsters at court held liminal positions used by rulers to create and shape their own personae.

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    Touba Ghadessi is Associate Professor of Art History at Wheaton College.

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