The beast within, the beast without: zoomorphic armour ornament and the human-animal divide in the material culture of Renaissance war

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Abstract

Drawing on and accentuating classical motifs, the surfaces of Renaissance armour are inhabited by an impressive variety of animal exuviae: leonine protomes and paws, ram’s horns, shells, tails, beaks, and wings. This essay examines the role of zoo­morphic armour around the period of the Italian wars (1494-1559) and brings into focus early modern ideas about the behavioural and morphological proximity of living beings, illustrating the period’s fluid perception of the human-animal divide. It argues for the centrality of ornament in military material culture and concludes by establishing armour as the period’s main figurative stage for experimenting with the permeability of bodily boundaries, and the mixing of human and animal forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
JournalVenezia Arti
Volume32
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Armour
  • Ornament
  • War
  • Animality
  • Zoomorphism
  • Grotesque
  • Monster

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