Art 150:
Western Art, Ancient to Medieval

Professor Michelli E-mail
Ext 3098
Flaten Auditorium
Fall, 1999
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
2.00-2.55 p.m.
Office Hours by appointment
Required Set Book:
Art Across Time, Vol I, Prehistory to the Fourteenth Century, Laurie Schneider Adams, McGraw-Hill College, 1999

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This is the long period when most approaches to western art making were thrashed out. We will begin in Mesopotamia and trace the technological introductions that made such a difference to cultural productions - the cylinder seal, the potter's wheel, stone masonry. We will analyze the art of the ages to find out common human perceptions of stability, motion and emotion, common artistic approaches to visual truth - what ought to be true, what you know to be true, what you see to be true, and what you feel to be true - and we will watch as artists become increasingly sophisticated in these modes to communicate very full messages, to please, and to tease. We will trace the ways art is used spiritually and liturgically, and we will see the beginnings of the astounding changes that happened with The Millennium of 1000 AD.

Then, at the end of the course, when you are familiar with a wide range of western art, we will examine the Shroud of Turin as an art historical problem. Almost everything you read about the shroud is, or claims to be scientifically based. The authors' airy assumption that this is the sum total of the problem is something that only you will now be in a position to appreciate. Let's see what we can do with the shroud, and how "scientific" the "scientists" are, and whether they or art historians are better at interpreting information.

And last of all, but not least, we will look at prehistoric art. Traditionally, prehistoric art comes at the beginning of this kind of course - but it is some of the most creative and sophisticated work humans have ever produced. At this stage in the course, you will appreciate its subtleties and ideas hands down better than anyone else!


There will be six quizzes during the semester. These will consist of ten short-answer questions on the material to-date (terms and definitions, visual analysis, interpretations) and will be peer-graded immediately afterwards in class, then passed to me for checking. The four best grades will be worth 10% each towards your course grade and two will be discarded.

There will be one assignment. This will be a 500-1000 word short-notes paper with annotated bibliography, which must be submitted on 29th October. You must ask for this topic on 13th October. This assignment is worth 30% of the course grade.

The Final will be a take-home paper assignment, which you must ask for on 10th December. This is worth 30% of your course grade.

Participation is required. I will call on you directly, using the name tags in the attendance pot, and you may volunteer (polite) comments and questions yourself.

Attendance is required. It is not graded, but if you miss more than three classes FOR ANY REASON, you will be docked 1% of your course grade for each missed class.

NOTE: All the assignments are very short, but you are expected to take them seriously. It is not easy to get a lot of information and comment into very few words. It takes time and concentration and you must work at it. Presentation is expected to be high. The quizzes are so short that each answer has a big impact on your grade: one wrong question counts for 10% of each quiz! Two wrong drops you to a B, three to a C, four ... Do not confuse shortness with easiness, and remember that I am looking for diamonds in small packages!

To help you: I have placed some automatic multiple-choice self-tests on the web page, and will add more during the semester. It is entirely up to you whether you do them or not. They are anonymous and I have no way of knowing how many times you did them or what grades you achieved. But, when I started this towards the end of last semester, those students who used them saw their grades rise by an average 20% on the next test! They do make a difference.

Courses Home Syllabus Terms and Concepts Paper Grading Policy