CFP: Ut pictura medicina? Visual Arts and Medicine

University of Salzburg and the Mozarteum University
November 4–6, 2021
Stichtag: 2020 12 15

Beyond the traditional nexus of art, anatomy, and optics, Early Modern sources often suggest a broader, more complex interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge between art and medicine: Lorenzo Ghiberti, for example, recommended that artists know “medicine” in addition to “anatomy.” One level of the relationship concerned both disciplines’ need to grasp the particularity of a given body in light of the universal. Physicians thus sought artists to produce color scales for use in diagnosis, just as artists utilized medical knowledge to sharpen their visual judgment. Another level concerned broader historical circumstances. Not only did artists and physicians share Saint Luke as a common patron; in Renaissance Florence, for example, they also belonged to the same guild, engaged in similar debates regarding their “liberal” status, and – arguably – conceived their histories in similar ways. What can we conclude about such multivalent relationships? For example, did the two disciplines’ commitment to the observation of particular phenomena engender inconsistencies with traditional doctrine that demanded a similar reckoning with status, authority, and history? And how did the model of “diagnosis” influence the thought and methods of connoisseurs and art theorists in the era before Giovanni Morelli?

This conference investigates the relationship between medicine and art at all levels: the social position of practitioners, the exchange of theoretical and practical knowledge, the existence of shared nomenclature and concepts, and the latter’s tendency to generate shared modes of observation and description. Although the event will focus on the early modern period, we also welcome scholars to address issues and case studies from medieval and modern times.

We invite submissions from scholars working in art history and neighboring disciplines, especially the history of science and medicine. Please submit a title, abstract (one page maximum) and a short CV in English or German by December 15, 2020, to the conference organizers: Robert Brennan (, Fabian Jonietz (, and Romana Sammern ( As far as possible, expenses for travel and lodging will be reimbursed for speakers. The possibility of conducting the conference in a hybrid or virtual form remains an option, and will be determined at a later stage.