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The Birth of Adonis by Bernard Picart

The Birth of Adonis by Bernard Picart

Events - Talks

The Study Sessions: A Darkened Room

Incense, perfume, incest and (im)pietas

01 May 2018

The Study Sessions are a series of informal reading and discussion groups. The sessions within A Darkened Room will touch upon Linder’s wide constellation of artistic influences and further explores the subjects presented in the exhibition. More>>
*Please note this session is now fully booked, if you would like to be added to the waiting list please email Mercè at
Incense, perfume, incest and (im)pietas: myrrh, religion and gender in the Roman world by Thea Lawrence
For this session Thea suggests the reading of the Myrrha passage from 'Metamorphoses: a new verse translation of Ovid', translated by David Raeburn (London, Penguin: 2004). She would like to encourage participants to think about their responses to the myth, as well as any questions they have about it, and she’d also encourage them to google anything that interests them before the session, particularly on such subjects as Ovid's Metamorphoses, the use of myrrh in the ancient world, the different versions of the Myrrha myth, incest and sexual taboo in the ancient world, women and perfume in the ancient world, as well as anything else.
The Studio
Thea Lawrence is a PhD candidate in the Department of Classics at University of Nottingham. Her thesis ‘The Senses and the Female Body in Pre-Christian Rome’ explores how recent decades have seen a proliferation in scholarship within sociology, anthropology, archaeology and classics addressing the senses and sensory perception in historical societies. Her project aims to make a timely contribution to this research by integrating two significant strands of classical scholarship that have traditionally been kept separate: ancient approaches to sense perception and the gendered representation, evaluation and use of the female body in pre-Christian Rome. From menstrual stench to exquisitely perfumed bodies, from smooth marble-white limbs to vibrant garments, Roman women were traditionally the objects of male eyes, noses, fingers, ears and tongues, but were also viewed with suspicion as active manipulators the Roman sensorium. Thea examines the Roman use of the senses as a diagnostic and epistemological tool for understanding female physiology, character and behaviour, and also consider the ways in which women could actively manipulate this male- system. It is this opportunity for conscious control of self-representation within a system of sensory categorisation and code that she focuses on, looking in particular at the ways in which Roman female cultus could be used as a sophisticated process of sensory manipulation – self- adornment, perfume, dress, touch, and the female voice (or lack of) as tools for projecting an image.