Knots, or the Violence of Desire in Renaissance Florence

Knots, or the Violence of Desire in Renaissance Florence
An interdisciplinary study of hair through the art, philosophy, and science of fifteenth-century Florence.

In this innovative cultural history, hair is the portal through which Emanuele Lugli accesses the cultural production of Lorenzo il Magnifico's Florence. Lugli reflects on the ways writers, doctors, and artists expressed religious prejudices, health beliefs, and gender and class subjugation through alluring works of art, in medical and political writings, and in poetry. He considers what may have compelled Sandro Botticelli, the young Leonardo da Vinci, and dozens of their contemporaries to obsess over braids, knots, and hairdos by examining their engagement with scientific, philosophical, and theological practices.

By studying hundreds of fifteenth-century documents that engage with hair, Lugli foregrounds hair's association to death and gathers insights about human life at a time when Renaissance thinkers redefined what it meant to be human and to be alive. Lugli uncovers overlooked perceptions of hair when it came to be identified as a potential vector for liberating culture, and he corrects a centuries-old prejudice that sees hair as a trivial subject, relegated to passing fashion or the decorative. He shows hair, instead, to be at the heart of Florentine culture, whose inherent violence Lugli reveals by prompting questions about the entanglement of politics and desire.

Publication Date: 
March 20, 2023