Made to Measure: Constructions of the Body in Early Modern Europe

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01 October 2018 → 30 September 2021
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Curatorial and related studies
    • History
    • Other history and archaeology
    • Art studies and sciences
    • Artistic design
    • Audiovisual art and digital media
    • Heritage
    • Music
    • Theatre and performance
    • Visual arts
    • Other arts
    • Product development
    • Study of regions
Project description

The role of geometry in the Renaissance is often discussed in the utopian terms with which it was
theorized by 16th C. humanists and scientists. Yet geometry and its numerous applications for the
mapping and predicting of real world phenomena were also the sources of tremendous innovation
that owed little to antique texts, as utilized by the artisans whose livelihood depended upon
understanding the properties and performance of material. The project seeks to expand the
histories of early modern art and science by recalibrating the definition and scope of Renaissance
mathematical knowledge through the drawings, prints, and treatises that streamed out of 16th C.
“mixed,” or applied, mathematical workshops explicitly concerned with the human body and its
enclosure in fabric, its posture in space, and its representation on paper. Beginning with the
Renaissance tailoring book, a new invention from the late 16th century that standardized the
appearance of bodies for all social situations and identities, the project traces an arch through the
many ways that geometry intersected with the professional priorities of artisans and their
attempts to valorize the scientific worth of their crafts. What emerges is a new vision of the early
modern body—one tied to techniques of production and representation, conceived in the abstract
terms of geometrical volumes and surfaces, its construction echoing the debates on gender,
subjectivity, and selfhood that continue to roil society to this day.