Florence Eccleston

PhD Student

Thesis: The Iconography and Experience of Sin in Late Medieval English Wall Painting

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 additional 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 thus in urgent need of proper record and study.

Led by visual and textual analysis, and informed by current debates on embodiment and emotion, 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 and Peakirk, to help reconsider the artistic and conceptual inventiveness of wall paintings at this time. By reevaluating the patronage of these paintings, I aim to move away from the Post-Reformative belief in the dogmatism of high church moral codes, and reveal 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 memory that urgently need interpreting.



2021-present: PhD, The Courtauld Institute of Art

2020-2021: MSt 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

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

Research Interests

  • Medieval wall paintings
  • Medieval art, with a focus on northern Europe and Italy, c.1200-1500
  • Evaluating the visual as a historical source for social history
  • The history of emotions, behaviour, and psychology
  • Gesture and facial expression
  • The history of sin and morality, and medieval theories of conscience
  • Medieval diagrams
  • Purgatory and hell

Other Professional Activities

Professional Memberships

  • British Archaeological Association
  • International Centre of Medieval Art
  • The Paul Mellon Doctoral Researchers Network