NB. This conference was held in January 2019 and the website is not being updated. For more information on the conference contact one of the organizers (noted below).

This international conference, held at Wellcome Collection, will explore human beauty from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. It will combine the disciplines of art history, the history of ideas and aesthetics, social history and the history of medicine to interrogate the topic of physical beauty and the human body. Beauty in the early modern period was inextricably linked to both health and ethics. External beauty reflected internal wellbeing and good taste in appearances was an index of moral rectitude. Ugliness and deformity were often associated with illness and bad character. This symposium will take an interdisciplinary approach to the topic of beauty, attending to the aesthetic, social, political and medical ramifications of human physical attractiveness. Register for the conference here.

Call for Contributions:

We invite proposals from PG students and ECRs for 3-minute lightning talks AND/OR posters for the poster exhibition during the conference. Please send a 100-word abstract, indicating if you are proposing a lightning talk, a poster or both, to prettyugly@contacts.bham.ac.uk by 30 November 2018.


The conference is organized by Professor Karen Harvey (University of Birmingham) and Professor Sarah Toulalan (University of Exeter). It is organized in collaboration with Wellcome Collection, who will run sessions and workshops as part of the conference.

The header image is a seventeenth-century painting of Barbara van Beck, held at Wellcome Collection. You can find more information here.

We are delighted to be supported by Wellcome Trust and the University of Birmingham’s The Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures .