Online Lecture: The Tacuina Sanitatis of Giangaleazzo Visconti – encounters between visual experience, courtly culture, and medicine, Dominic Olariu, Murray Seminars at Birkbeck, 25th May, 4.45pm for 5pm (BST)

Four illustrated Tacuinum sanitatis (Tables of Health) manuscripts commissioned in the late fourteenth century by Giangaleazzo Visconti, Count of Milan and Pavia, pioneered a genre of books based on empirical experience. The manuscripts assimilated the eleventh-century Arabic medical and dietary knowledge of the tract Taqwīm al-ṣiḥḥa (Restoration of Health), itself a ground-breaking work, combining this with new formats and illustrations based on empirically gained experience. In northern Italian court culture the promotion of medical progress was an important aspect of the pursuit of a refined lifestyle in which the experience and practice of a sophisticated garden culture, the cultivation of a learned book culture, and the creation of avant-garde art all played their part. The experiences recorded in these images, combined with short texts, opened up new avenues of scientific practice and allowed Giangaleazzo a courtly self-dramatization as a promoter of medicine, the arts, and a healthy lifestyle, so strengthening his fragile position as ruler.

Dominic Olariu teaches at Philipps University in Marburg and holds a research position at the University of Erfurt. He is the author of Das Herbarium Blackwellianum (2020) and La genèse de la représentation ressemblante de l’homme (2014), and has edited two anthologies on portraiture. His numerous articles reflect his interdisciplinary research interests in conceptions of imitation, indexicality and similitude, particularly as seen in portraiture and illustrations of the natural sciences in the medieval to early modern periods.

Book your place here!


Published by Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson holds a First Class Honours in the History of Art from the University of Bristol, with a particular focus on Medieval Florence. In 2020 she achieved a Distinction in her MA at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialised in the art and architecture of Medieval England under the supervision of Dr Tom Nickson. Her dissertation focussed on an alabaster altarpiece, and its relationship with the cult of St Thomas Becket in France and the Chartreuse de Vauvert. Her current research focusses on the artistic patronage of London’s Livery Companies immediately pre and post-Reformation. Ellie will begin a PhD at the University of York in Autumn 2021 with a WRoCAH studentship, under the supervision of Professor Tim Ayers and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein.

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