As it’s snowing and my plans for the day are postponed, I decided to stop putting off taking a sample of my blood to enable me to start visually analysing my red blood cells. I could have taken a syringe to my arm, but that seems a bit excessive as I only need a tiny drop, so I used a lancet to prick my skin and draw the blood – a surprisingly large amount flowed out which I then dripped into a phial with anti-coagulant. I’m waiting for the slides to dry, then I’ll view them under the microscope, take photos and hopefully make a stop-motion animation.


My recent fascination with blood has influenced how I experience art, contemporary and ancient.

Whilst staying in Prato, a town not far from Florence, I visited the town museum. My expectations were not high, I was thinking along the lines of some UK provincial museums with quite dull work displayed in uninspiring ways, I was very wrong. Of course Prato was an important town of the Renaissance (Fra Fillippo Lippi lived there) with a collection reflecting this – the museum is a gem.

I decided, with my 14 yr old daughter, to hunt for paintings depicting blood in some way, surprisingly (or not, had I thought about it), most had evidence of blood – of course they would, they are religious paintings of murder (crucifixion and beheading), sacrifice, martyrdom, terror… Even in this town during the 14th century, premature death was the norm, common diseases included dysentery, malaria, diphtheria, ‘flu, typhoid, smallpox and leprosy, and the plague hit in 1347 killing over a third of the population. Sores would seep blood and pus, blood was coughed up and gruesome treatments included boil lancing, bloodletting and flagellation (for purification) with sharp metal studded leather straps.

The Renaissance art of the museum reflects, and would have resonated with, this society; it seems so far removed from our own – one where bloody death was ever present… we’ve suffered Covid, but the version of this contemporary plague presented in the media appears to be sanitised.

I need to explore the pigments used in Renaissance paintings, I wonder if some artists strayed from the usual Vermillion and Carmine and even used blood? I’m guessing they didn’t due to darkening with the air.