Robert Mills’ LGBT History Month lecture: ‘Recognising Wilgefortis’ – 24 February 2021

A discussion of a premodern painting, viewed through the prism of modern notions of trans identity and genderqueerness.

We are looking forward to the LGBT History Month Lecture on 24 February 2021, 5.30 pm, which will be delivered by Professor Robert Mills.

The point of departure for this talk is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch depicting a crucified saint whose identity, including their gender identity, has sparked controversy.

Current consensus is that the image represents the bearded female martyr, Saint Wilgefortis, also known as Uncumber, Ontcommer, Kümmernis etc. But other identifications have been proposed.

Contextualising the artwork with reference to medieval and early modern understandings of gender diversity and transformation, this paper will stage a dialogue between Bosch’s painting and current debates about the role of identity categories and terminology in histories of gender and sexuality.

What happens when a premodern image is viewed through the prism of modern notions of trans identity and genderqueerness?

What’s in a name?

Robert Mills is Professor of Medieval Studies and Head of the History of Art Department at UCL. Between 2015 and 2018 Mills directed qUCL, UCL’s LGBTQ research network. Previously he was director of the Queer@King’s research centre at King’s College London. Mills’s publications include Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015) and Derek Jarman’s Medieval Modern (2018). He also contributed the medieval section to A Gay History of Britain (2007).

Free online event. Joining instructions will be sent automatically via email nearer the date of the event.

Queries can be addressed to Heather Shore –, Craig Griffiths – C. or Haseeb Khan –

Sign up via eventbrite here.

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