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Erasmus’s Nose

Thursday 2 March 2023, 5.15PM

Speaker(s): Alexander Marr, University of Cambridge

Abstract

Desiderius Erasmus was self-conscious about his nose. In caricatural self-portraits doodled in the margins of his working papers, he lampooned its size and shape. Unsurprisingly, it features prominently in the drawn, painted, engraved and sculpted portraits Erasmus commissioned from Quinten Matsys, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Albrecht Dürer. Yet while those images have attracted considerable attention, the sitter’s nose has been curiously overlooked.

By situating this feature in the context of humanist metaphors that invoke the nasus, sniffing and wiping, a playful pictorial game is revealed: one which treats wittily of acumen, character and style.

About the speaker

Alexander Marr is Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern Art at the University of Cambridge, Fellow and Dean of Discipline at Trinity Hall. His most recent books are the co-authored Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe (2018) and Rubens’s Spirit: From Ingenuity to Genius (2021). He currently holds a Senior Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, to complete his next book: Holbein’s Wit: Pictorial Ingenuity and the Mindful Hand in Renaissance Art.

Location: The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building