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The Beast Within, the Beast Without

Zoomorphic Armour Ornament and the Human-Animal Divide in the Material Culture of Renaissance War

Francesca Borgo    Bibliotheca Hertziana, Italy; University of St Andrews, UK    



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.

20 Dicembre 2023
24 Ottobre 2023
31 Agosto 2023

Keywords: WarGrotesqueZoomorphismAnimalityOrnamentArmourMonster

Copyright: © 2023 Francesca Borgo. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.