Florence Eccleston

PhD Student

Sin and Self-Reflection: The Iconography and Viewership of ‘Morality Images’ in English Wall Painting, c.1300-1450

Supervisor: Dr Jessica Barker        Advisors: Professor Alixe Bovey and Dr Jane Spooner

Funded by Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE) with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation

My research focuses on the rise of ‘morality’ wall paintings in England in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with the aim of revaluating how sin was understood during this period. These paintings, which include subjects such as the Warning to the Gossipers and the Seven Deadly Sins, are most often located in rural churches, and their inaccessibility and often poorly preserved condition means this rich corpus of medieval works of art has been overlooked. The lack of scholarly and public awareness means they are quickly crumbling from the walls due to a lack of funding for their proper preservation and conservation. They are therefore in urgent need of proper record and study.

Led by visual and textual analysis, my thesis focuses on this rich but overlooked corpus of medieval works of art to examine the notion of ‘sin’ and the ways in which people conceptualise emotions and behaviour. The wall paintings’ monumental scale and diagrammatic form reveal an innovative use of imagery to show the theological, sociological, and even medical origins of sin. I focus on particular examples, such as the paintings at Trotton, Peakirk, and Longthorpe Tower, to help reconsider the artistic and conceptual inventiveness of wall paintings at this time. By reevaluating the patronage of these paintings, I aim to  examine the shared emotional codes and standards of the period. The paintings reveal a complex cognitive and moral landscape of the late Middle Ages as well as evidence of changing attitudes to sin and regulations of thought, behaviour, and emotion that urgently need interpreting.



2021-present: PhD, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2020-2021: MSt Historical Research (Medieval Studies), University of Oxford

2017-2020: BA (Hons.) History of Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Research Grants, Scholarships, and Awards

2021-Present: AHRC Doctoral Studentship, Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England

2020-2021: Clarendon Scholarship, University of Oxford

2020: The Sam Fogg Dissertation Prize, The Courtauld Institute of Art: ‘The Late-Medieval Last Judgement Wall-Painting at Trotton’

Research Interests

  • Emotions, behaviour, and psychology
  • Sin and morality, and theories of conscience
  • Gesture and facial expression
  • English, Scandinavian, and European Wall Painting, 1200-1500
  • Evaluating the visual as a historical source for social and psychological history

Other Academic Activity

Doctoral Placement, Buildings Curation, Hampton Court Palace (January-April 2024)

Founder and Co-convenor with Katharine Waldron (University of Oxford and Hamilton Kerr Institute), Medieval Wall Paintings Group

Doctoral Placement, Project for visitor interpretation: ‘Viewing the Medieval Wall Paintings at Canterbury’, Archives, Canterbury Cathedral (May-August 2023)

Reviews Editor: Immediations Postgraduate Journal (2022 and 2023)

Postgraduate Assistant: National Wall Paintings Survey Project (2022)

Select Conferences, Workshops, & Talks

Full of All the Seven Deadly Sins: What do late medieval ‘Morality’ wall paintings have to do with emotional and bodily perception?’, Medieval Research Seminar, Centre for Medieval Studies University of Exeter, 22 May 2024

‘The Senses, Body and Soul: Viewership and Perception at Longthorpe Tower’, Courtauld Postgraduate Symposium, May 2024 

‘Charitable Salvation: Morality and Identity in the Wall Paintings at Trotton’, British Archaeological Association, Chichester Conference, 4-8 September 2023

‘Researching Medieval Wall Paintings’ Workshop, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 17 May 2023 (CHASE funded) (Paper given: ‘Conservation, Copies, and Conundrums: The Wall Paintings at Corby Glen, Lincolnshire’)

‘The Iconography and Viewership of ‘Morality Images’ in English Wall Painting, c.1300-1450’, 2nd Year Medieval Symposium, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2 May 2023

Academic Teaching

Teaching Assistant, BA2 Physical Histories, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Autumn 2023

Teaching Assistant, Summer University, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Summer 2023