The Body as a Mirror of the Soul

Physiognomy from Antiquity to the Renaissance

Edited by Lisa Devriese

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Physiognomy, the history of racial classifications, and the interplay between natural philosophy, medicine, and ethics
The idea of the body as a mirror of the soul has fascinated mankind throughout history. Being able to see through an individual, and drawing conclusions on their character solely based on a selection of external features, is the subject of physiognomy, and has a long tradition running well into recent times. However, the pre-modern, especially medieval background of this discipline has remained underexplored. The selected case studies in this volume each contribute to a better understanding of the history of physiognomy from antiquity to the Renaissance, and offer discussions on unedited treatises and on the application, development, and reception of this field of knowledge, as well as on visual sources inspired by physiognomic theory.

Contributors: Enikő Békés (Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Joël Biard (University of Tours), Lisa Devriese (KU Leuven), Maria Fernanda Ferrini (University of Macerata), Christophe Grellard (École Pratique des Hautes Études), Luís Campos Ribeiro (University of Lisbon), Maria Michela Sassi (University of Pisa), Oleg Voskoboynikov (Higher School of Economics Moscow), Steven J. Williams (New Mexico Highlands University), Joseph Ziegler (University of Haifa), Gabriella Zuccolin (University of Pavia) 

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).


Lisa Devriese
Physiognomy from Antiquity to the Renaissance : an Introduction 

Maria Michela Sassi
The Beginnings of Physiognomy in Ancient Greece 

Maria Fernanda Ferrini
Oἰνωποί/Aἰγωποί: Manuscript Tradition and Conjecture 

Enikő Békés
The Physiognomy of Apostle Paul: Between Texts and Images 

Steven J. Williams
Some Observations on the Scholarly Reception of Physiognomy in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Century: Success, and the Limits of Success

Lisa Devriese
First Medieval Attestations of the Physiognomonica

Oleg Voskoboynikov
Michael Scotus’ Physiognomy: Notes on Text and Context 

Joël Biard and Christophe Grellard
La place des Questiones circa librum de physionomia dans le système philosophique de Jean Buridan

Gabriella Zuccolin
Towards a Critical Edition of Michele Savonarola’s Speculum Physionomie 

Joseph Ziegler and Luís Campos Ribeiro
Astral Physiognomy in the Fifteenth Century : the Case of the Illuminated Opening Folio of Rolandus Scriptoris’ Reductorium Phisonomie

Notes on Contributors 
Index codicum manu scriptorum 
Index nominum 

Format: Edited volume - paperback

Size: 234 × 156 × 12 mm

232 pages

Illustrated b/w

ISBN: 9789462702929

Publication: October 05, 2021

Series: Mediaevalia Lovaniensia - Series 1-Studia 50

Languages: English

Stock item number: 144217

Lisa Devriese is professor at the De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Philosophy (KU Leuven) and director of the Aristoteles Latinus project.

Assurément, le lecteur reste fasciné par les très nombreux aspects des cultures antique, médiévale et moderne que le sujet permet d’aborder : les contributions, tout en étant d’un niveau scientifique très élevé, restent tout à fait abordables. La force de ce recueil est d’offrir une approche chronologique qui facilite une compréhension globale des questionnements sur la physiognomonie. En effet, les AA. parviennent bien à mettre en avant tout ce que son étude peut offrir et réussissent conjointement à livrer une excellente introduction interdisciplinaire et transpériodique. Ninon Dubourg, Revue d'Histoire ecclésiastique, vol. 117/3-4, 2022


This careful and deeply researched volume absolutely highlights the richness of early physiognomic thought while offering methodological interventions around how to navigate limited sources. It is a robust chronological framing that combines historical, textual, and literary analysis, visual culture, anthropology, and translation studies to anchor medieval and Renaissance physiognomy both in antiquity and modern discourse. The book emerged from a conference; such an approach is often organized more around topic than theme and argument. The editor does an excellent job framing the texts in a way that is both coherent and cross-cutting, while at the same time allowing the chapters to stand alone as scholarly and pedagogical interventions, offering methodological and historical insights. Clear and cogent, this volume is accessible while remaining robust and rich; scholars will be taking up its provocations for many years to come.

Sharrona Pearl, Isis, Volume 114, Number 1, March 2023