Title: Cieco da rimedis per I calli (Blind man with remedy for corns) by Francesco Villamena
Place: Italy
Date: 1597 – 1601
Medium & technique: Engraving on paper
Dimensions: 326 x 215 mm
Themes: Bodies – Inside & Outside
Collection: Baillieu Library Print Collection, Gift of Dr. J. Orde Poyton 1959

Depicting a blind peddler selling a medical remedy, this engraving by Francesco Villamena (1566–1624) follows a genre documenting street criers and itinerant traders that became popular in Italy in the 1580s. This broadsheet style of imagery typically presented rows of street vendors and craftsmen who could be identified by their tools or street cry and who were indigenous to a given city. Yet this blind peddler is a lone traveller on a dirt road and there is no suggestion of a town nearby.

The Italian inscription under the image identifies the blind man and gives him a voice with which he addresses the viewer through the centuries. He shouts: ‘I am blind, and roam the world crying out / the secret of curing corns / and how to get rid of all sorts of corns / This is how I spend my poor life; The gallant messer Tobia Rosolin gives this present to you, people with corns on your feet. I am sure you will relish it.’ Despite his poor attire and lack of sight, this remedy-seller is empowered through identity, voice, physical scale, and the ability to evoke a sense of wonder from his audience. He is not as foreign to the body social as he might at first appear. Read more about this object.

Kerrianne Stone, University of Melbourne

Further Reading:

David Gentilecore, Medical charlatanism in early modern Italy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, p.33

Shelia McTighe, ‘Perfect Deformity, Ideal Beauty, and the “Imaginaire: of Work: The Reception of Annibale Carracci’s “Arti di Bologna” in 1646,’ Oxford Art Journal 16/1 (1993): 75-91.

Kerrianne Stone, ‘A case study of the blind healer in Early Modern Europe’, Parergon 37/2, forthcoming 2020.