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January 26, 2007

Talk, Slide Presentation to Explore Visual Art’s Response to the Plague, February 9 at the MBL

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—James Welu, Director of the Worcester Art Museum and Richard Glew, a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School will examine the response of the visual arts to the plague in a lecture titled "The Pathos of Bubonic Plague in Italy (1500-1800) Depicted Through Art” on Friday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the MBL’s (Marine Biological Laboratory’s) Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole.

The slide presentation will depict works from the Worcester Art Museum exhibition Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500-1800 and provides a unique opportunity to experience Baroque paintings—from great altar pieces, to those commissioned for private homes and public spaces.

The lecture, presented by the MBL Associates and sponsored in part by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, is part of the 2006-2007 Falmouth Forum series and is free and open to the public.

Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500-1800 was the first exhibition in North America to examine the response of the visual arts to the plague. In the theocratic society of early modern Italy, both the source of the plague and cure for it were thought to come from God. Spiritual remedies including fasting, penitential processions, charity, and prayer to heavenly intercessors were proclaimed and mandated by the church. Many of these acts are portrayed in the paintings of this presentation, as the role of art was to remind viewers of these remedies.

According to Welu and Glew, the intersection of scientific knowledge and spiritual needs that was investigated in this exhibition is an engaging subject for the biomedical community as well as the general public. In this presentation, they will explore how the ways in which Italian society responded to this disaster by illuminating a variety of aesthetic, social, and religious concerns. In our more secular world, science plays a major role in coping with plagues such as AIDS, Ebola, and SARS. Still, as Welu and Glew contend, art continues to inspire and give perspective to the human condition in times of disaster.

Dr. James A. Welu is the Director of the Worcester Art Museum (the second largest art museum in New England) and a specialist in 17th century Dutch and Flemish painting and cartography. During his career, he has organized several major exhibitions including Judith Leyster: A Dutch Master and Her World, the first show of the most famous woman artist from Holland’s Golden Age. Dr. Welu received his B.A. from Loras College, his MA and MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and his Ph.D. from Boston University. He has been widely published and is a frequent lecturer.

Dr. Richard H. Glew received his A.B. from Harvard College and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He joined UMass in 1977 and is presently Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education and Faculty Affairs in the Department of Medicine at the UMass Memorial Health Care. Dr. Glew has received several UMass teaching awards and has appeared in The Best Doctors in America on numerous occasions.

Admission to this Falmouth Forum presentation is free and open to the public. A buffet dinner is available before the lecture at 6:00 PM in the Swope Center located near the auditorium. Dinner tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance at either Eight Cousins Children’s Books, Main Street, Falmouth, or at the MBL’s Communications Office in the Candle House, 127 Water Street in Woods Hole. Dinner seats are limited, and tickets are only available until they sell out or until 5:00 PM on Monday, March 12. All tickets are nonrefundable. For more information contact the MBL’s Communications Office at 508-289-7423.

The remaining lecture in this year’s series will be held on Thursday, March 15. Horace Clarence Boyer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Music at UMass Amherst will present "The Old Ship of Zion: African American Gospel Music," a guided tour through each of the stages of the development of gospel music.

Visit our Falmouth Forum page for more information.


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere. For more information, visit www.MBL.edu

Since 1944, the MBL Associates has promoted the scientific mission of the MBL. The group supports the Annual Fund, provides a formal connection for anyone interested in learning about the institution, and sponsors gifted students and promising young investigators. Members also raise funds for special projects and organize educational and cultural programs for the MBL and the community. In addition, they operate the MBL Associates Gift Shop, located on Water Street in Woods Hole, the profits from which support scientific fellowships.