“A Perverted Taste”: Italian depictions of Cloth and Puberty in mid-19th-century century Marble

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


This essay addresses the role of cloth in mid-nineteenth century sculptural depictions of childhood and puberty. I focus on north Italian sculpture, whose spectacular realism generated particular qualities of texture, concealment and flesh that invited close and sustained viewing, even touching. In this essay, I argue that these Italian experiments in realism, far from embodying a superficial engagement with surface detail, offered radical – and sometimes unsettling - new ways of engaging with the modern world. Central to this was their rendering of cloth in marble. In part this essay is therefore a provocation to art historians to look more closely at the ways in which these sculptures engage so thoughtfully and meticulously with cloth. We need to question a history of sculpture in which classical drapery trumps realism and the hierarchies of ideal beauty, surface and decoration that that implies. It is also intended as a stimulus to textile and costume historians to engage more closely with representations of cloth and clothing in sculpture.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Erotic Cloth: Seduction and Fetishism in Textiles
EditorsAlice Kettle, Leslie Millar
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2018


  • cloth, sculpture, puberty, drapery, realism

ASJC Scopus subject areas