Fleshing out surfaces

Skin in French art and medicine, 1650–1850

By Mechthild Fend

Fleshing out surfaces


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8796-7
  • Pages: 352
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: December 2016
  • BIC Category: The arts / History of art / art & design styles, ART / History / General, MEDICAL / History, ART / History / Baroque & Rococo, History of art, History of medicine, Art History
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


Fleshing out surfaces is the first English-language book on skin and flesh tones in art. It considers flesh and skin in art theory, image making and medical discourse in seventeenth to nineteenth-century France. Describing a gradual shift between the early modern and the modern period, it argues that what artists made when imitating human nakedness was not always the same. Initially understood in terms of the body's substance, of flesh tones and body colour, it became increasingly a matter of skin, skin colour and surfaces. Each chapter is dedicated to a different notion of skin and its colour, from flesh tones via a membrane imbued with nervous energy to hermetic borderline. Looking in particular at works by Fragonard, David, Girodet, Benoist and Ingres, the focus is on portraits, as facial skin is a special arena for testing painterly skills and a site where the body and the image become equally expressive.


'Fleshing out Surfaces makes for a rich and fascinating read. Fleshing out Surfaces contributes significantly to a growing body of work on the history of representing human skin in art and science by scholars such as Mieneke te Hennepe and Ann-Sophie Lehmann, among others.'
Marieke M. A. Hendriksen - A Journal of eighteenth-century art and culture, March 2018


Mechthild Fend is Reader in History of Art at University College London


1. The surface's substance
2. Nervous canvas
3. Limite sensitive
4. Skin colour
5. Seeing through the skin
6. Hermetic borderline
7. Epilogue: segregation

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