Online Lecture: ‘Perverse Images: Monstrous Beauty and Monkey Business in Italian Art from Botticelli to Bronzino’, by Professor Patricia Rubin, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence, 27 May 2021, 5-6 pm (BST)

In canto 29 of Dante’s Inferno a notorious alchemist, consigned to the depths of Hell among the fraudulent, boasts of having been a successful ape of nature (“di natura buona scimia”). The boast allies imitation with counterfeiting and points to the way that representational truth to nature is inherently false. This talk takes the presence of monkeys in Sandro Botticelli’s tondo showing the Adoration of the Magi (The National Gallery, London), Michelangelo’s sculpture of a languishing prisoner (Louvre), and a tapestry design by Bronzino (British Museum) as a starting point to consider the ways that mimesis is inflected in those works and by those artists.  It also explores how the duplicitous nature of naturalism allows for the hybrid and monstrous to be the attractive offspring of art, confusing categorical distinctions between abject and admirable.

Patricia Rubin is a Visiting Scholar at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. She was professor, Deputy Director, and founding Head of the Research Forum at the Courtauld Institute, and Director of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Her books include Giorgio Vasari. Art and History (1995), Images and Identity in Fifteenth-Century Florence(2007), and Seen from Behind: Perspectives on the Male Body in Italian Renaissance Art (2018). Recently, she has published on topics ranging from Art and the Masquerade of History” (2020) to “poetic design” in Botticelli’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy (2021).

Speaker: Professor Patricia Rubin – Visiting Scholar, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

Organised by: Scott Nethersole – The Courtauld , Guido Rebecchini – The Courtauld

This is a live online event.  

Please register for more details. The platform and log in details will be sent to attendees at least 48 hours before the event. Please note that registration closes 30 minutes before the event start time.  

If you have not received the log in details or have any further queries, please contact 

To register please click 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: