Winter Speaker Series 2022: Sheila Barker

March 5, 2022 2:00 pm In person at the Museum, and Virtually on Zoom

'The Artist and the Plague: Stories of Terror, Empathy, and Miracles from the Black Death to the Naples Plague (1347–1656)"

The second great plague pandemic, which recurred cyclically in Europe, Africa and Asia from the 14th century to the 19th century, decimated populations and made a deep impact on the cultures and institutions of the civilizations it struck most frequently. Because science could not provide any cure for the disease, the survival of a population required massive societal adaptations at nearly every level. Artists rose to the challenge. They participated in both the acclimation to the constancy of danger and the call to overcome the fear of contact with victims by means of images that interpreted the plagues in order to guide responses to the plagues of the future.

The lecture will be followed by audience Q&A and continued conversation in the galleries over hot tea, coffee, and scrumptious light fare and desserts, generously provided by Pranzi Catering.

Note: Tickets for individual lectures are available for In-Person and Virtual attendance. In person seating is limited. 

About Our Speaker

Sheila Barker is Director of the Jane Fortune Research Program at the Medici Archive Project. An art historian specialized in the study of plague art, early modern women artists and the cultural history of Renaissance Italy, her study of plague art began with her 2002 dissertation,  “Art in a Time of Danger: Urban VIII’s Rome and the Plague of 1629–1634.” Her most recent contributions to this literature are her essays “Miraculous Images and the Plagues of Italy, c. 590–1656” in Saints, Miracles and the Image (Brepols, 2017), and “Painting the Plague, 1250–1630” in Plague Image and Imagination from Medieval to Modern Times (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).


Giovanni del biondo (attributed), “Trittico di San Sebastiano”, ca. 1350-1375

Ways to Save

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Sincere Thanks to our Generous Supporters:

Series Sponsors:

Joan Abrams
Lockett Ford Ballard, Jr.
Johanna and Ronald Becker
Angela and Edwin Fischer, The Hope Foundation
Island Carpet Tile & Hardwoods
Mary Jennings
Linda McGoldrick
Santiago Neville
Edwina Sebest
Cynthia Sinclair


Linda Jenkins
Kathleen Shinners

Catering and Speaker Accommodations:


Winter Speaker Series Committee

Johanna Becker, Chairwoman
Cristin Searles Bilodeau, Director of Community Engagement
Eleanor Doumato
Anne DuBose Joslin
Susan Kieronski
Santiago Neville
Kathleen Shinners