Immersion: Classical Reception and Eastern European Transformations of Hygiene Architecture, ca. 1680–1830

Aleksander Musiał, MPhil

My project explores eighteenth-century bathing architecture in Eastern Europe and its impact across the continent. During this period, the region witnessed unprecedented developments in hygiene infrastructure, thanks to a network of artists active in Russia and Poland-Lithuania. Eastern European baths, whose forms and functions simultaneously evoked Ottoman and Graeco-Roman counterparts, reveal the ideological tensions that surfaced within Russian and Polish-Lithuanian societies as they negotiated their fluctuating positions between the Orient and the Occident. More than just a cleansing site, the intimate, immersive space of a bathhouse served as a platform for a socially permissible merging of local and foreign cultural practices, as well as an exploration of the exposed human body. Controversies surrounding this phenomenon among foreign commentators – as articulated in genre scenes, travelogue prints, and scholarly dissertations – constituted a vital point of reference within contemporary debates on human physiology and social improvement. Based on the close study of drawings, structures, and their reception, my analysis of this little acknowledged contribution will shed light on the emergence of the modern concept of hygiene and the new bodily models it generated.

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