Wings and Feathers in Early Modern Art and Thought: Meanings. Media. Materiality (RSA)

Stephanie Heremans's picture
Call for Papers
March 30, 2022 to April 2, 2022
Ireland {Republic}
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies

From Leonardo's bold aeronautic experiments and his Codex on the Flight of Birds (ca. 1505) to the plumed iconologies of Fortuna, Kairos, Melancholy, and Hermes; from Albrecht Dürer's colorful study of the Wing of a Blue Roller (1512) and Joris Hoefnagel's delicate ink drawing of winged Insects and the Head of a Wind God (ca. 1590-1600) to wings and feathers as key insignia of religious transcendence and philosophical ascent; and from feathers as telling accessories and part of the military garb of various peoples across the globe to transcultural legends of flight and flying -- wings and feathers are masters tropes of transcendence and transport across time and space. As 'exotic' material and an evocative medium of representation, feathers in particular have drawn attention in post-colonial art history, shedding new light on the often hybrid nature of knowledge and image transfers in the early modern world and the impact of existing cultural traditions and techniques in colonized regions. All of these aspects are of interest for our panel.

We encourage papers offering new insights into the representation, iconography, materiality and technology of wings and feathers in early modern art, from circa 1400 to 1600. We welcome art historical contributions discussing aspects of the natural world, religion, mythology, philosophy and art theory on a global scale -- in particular with reference to:

  • open questions of representation, including symbols, metaphors, and metonymies in early modern cultures
  • ambivalences between devotional and profane, intellectual and creative concepts
  • studies of nature and concerns in the history of knowledge
  • wings and feathers as exotic objects and collectibles
  • feathers as artistic materials and creative tools
  • feathers and bodies
  • iconologies of flight, speed, chance and time

Scholars interested in these topics are invited to submit the following materials to the organizers:

  • full name, current affiliation and email address
  • paper title (15-word maximum)
  • paper abstract (150-word maximum)
  • short CV of 300 words max (.pdf or .doc upload)
  • PhD or other terminal degree completion year (past or expected)

Please note the RSA guidelines for submission here:

Send materials by August 5, 2021 to:

Jeanette Kohl and Barbara Baert, copying Stephanie Heremans and Molly Bond

Contact Info: 

Jeanette Kohl ( and Barbara Baert (, copying Stephanie Heremans ( and Molly Bond (