Lecture: Medusa’s Hair. Images, Diseases and Terror in Post-Revolutionary France

Dr Mechthild Fend

Reader in History of Art
Department of History of Art
University College London

London, 16 November 2016, 5:30 pm

Admission free; please register for this event on our Eventbrite page here.

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Mechthild Fend, Reader in History of Art at University College London, will give a lecture on the migrations of the visual and mental image of Medusa between early modern art, French revolutionary prints and medical illustrations and discourses.

It engages with a curious hair condition consisting of entangled, matted hair forming braids that were occasionally even said to bleed. The phenomenon was medicalised from ca 1600 onwards and locally confined to Eastern Europe, specifically Poland, and generally referred to as Plica Polonica. Only towards the end of the nineteenth century medical profesionals agreed that the alleged pathological condition was simply an issue of hygiene.The paper will focus on early-nineteenth-century Paris and dermatological publications which invoke the spectre of Medusa to describe the condition. Taking the case of the Plica as an example, it will raise the question of how images deal with terrifying sights.


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