Art 255

The Art of the Renaissance in Italy

News & Links Introduction Syllabus

Set Book: L Partridge, The Art of Renaissance Rome, 1400-1600, Prentice Hall Inc, Harry N Abrams Inc, 1996

In this course, we will live and study in Rome. No city can be richer in art than this city, the center of western Christianity, and consequently an important producer of art from the Early Christian period onwards. In this course we will immerse ourselves in the Christian art of the ages with a view to understanding and contextualising the achievements of the Italian Renaissance. We will look at churches built by Constantine, renovated in the Middle Ages, and refaced in the Baroque period, and contrast them with the designs and issues of the Renaissance. We will examine the serenity the serenity of the true Renaissance church and contrast it with the Baroque energy of churches whose walls bulge with the effort of staying together. We will look at icons and compare them with altarpieces, and examine the introduction of realistic art by Cavallini and Arnolfo in order to understand fully the approach and achievements of Michelangelo, Raphael and their contemporaries.

We will visit buildings, museums, art galleries, the Vatican, the catacombs and the great piazzas. You will be asked to keep a journal derived from study-questionnaires; to make one brief prepared presentation on site; and to write two short papers directly from the monuments. One paper will present the Renaissance as the fulfilment of Early Christian and Medieval tradition, and the other as the stimulus to future developments. In this way, you will have a uniquely direct, personal knowledge of the art, monuments and locations of the Renaissance and how these fit in the continuum of human thought. And your thought, as a representative of the predominantly Protestant and secular 20th century, is part of this continuum. You may be surprised at your reaction to many of these works and places. Whatever your reaction is, it is an important gauge of the cultural difference between you and the people who designed them. Since all these works are specifically religious, we will examine that cultural difference and its implications with regard to modern spirituality.

The (provisional) Itinerary lists the sites we will visit together, and on the printed copy there will be spaces to sign up for your preferred presentation. Start thinking about this now, with first and second choices, but wait for the final itinerary and confirmation before you start to prepare. The presentation should last about twenty minutes and you will prepare it during this semester. Then, when we get to Rome, you will buzz ahead to your site and view it before the rest of us see it. That way, you will be able to show us how to get there (if, for example, the entrance is not immediately obvious), and you will be able to show us around competently. It is your responsibility to organize this for yourself. It is required even for the first presentation.

The itinerary can only be a selection of what is available in Rome, so you have been given plenty of time to explore other sites, museums, catacombs, galleries and so on. Entrance fees will be reimbursed if you produce the ticket or receipt. In addition, you have three unallocated days for your own activities. You may use these to make extended visits to other cities if you wish and can afford it. Florence, for example, would make an excellent complement to Rome. Or you can use the time to explore Rome more fully, or make sure your written work is up to date. We will also meet as a group several times a week to digest our findings, examine issues, review terms, and help you keep the sites and monuments separate in your mind.

What kind of person will get the most from this course? Someone who is prepared to get stuck in and join the debate; someone who will think aloud, who will notice their own reactions and think about what has caused them. Someone who is prepared to be friendly and responsible with their peers. There is no pre-requisite. It does not matter if you have ever done any art history before or not, although the course does count towards the major. In fact, if you have never done any art history, you might have an advantage in that you will see very clearly and directly, and this is precious. This is your only opportunity to see these places and things with a fresh eye. Once you've done that, you can never do it again; and once someone has told you about them, you cannot see them in the same way again. So come and see it all for yourself before anyone can tell you what to see or think. You want to do this!