Renaissance Painting and Sculpture (Art 254)

Professor Michelli E-mail
Ext 3098
Flaten Auditorium
Fall, 1999
Monday, Wednesday, Friday,
9.05-10.00 a.m.
Office Hours by appointment
Required set book:
The Craft of Art, Originality and Industry in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque Workshop, A Ladis and C Wood (eds), University of Georgia Press, Athens and London, 1995

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The Renaissance can be seen as the culmination of the Middle Ages, or (more commonly) as the foundation of the Modern Age. Medieval workshop practices continued unabated. One of these was the use of apprentices and assistants in the Master's studio to produce a work that bore the Master's signature but which was in fact a collaboration. This essentially Medieval craftly practice occurs alongside the unmistakable rise of the hero artist who is presented to us in distinctly modern terms as a lone, creative genius. Some artists, such as Leonardo and Michelangelo, did indeed prefer to work unaided. Most others, whom we also perceive as lone heroes, did not. Ghiberti, Botticelli, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and the Carracci brothers - all presided over busy workshops. Others, such as Sebastiano del Piombo, and Bronzino worked from another artist's studies. All freely borrowed motifs from each other and from earlier artists. All this raises serious questions about our perceptions of the phenomenon of the Renaissance, and about the artists' perceptions of their own profession.

By studying the works themselves, we can see the craftliness of art alternately emphasized and denied, and this tells us something about how the artist wanted to be perceived. We can see how artists formed their styles and repertoires as collaborators and individuals. We can see the rising importance of the personal touch and process, and how this changed the nature of art from an anonymous public commodity to a personal exploration of the intangible: spirituality, emotion, perception, talent, creativity, individuality. This gives us some context within which to assess the new phenomenon of the art print - produced by engravers who balanced the task of reproduction with their own creativity, and became prized and collected in their own right. Finally, we can also see how art historical mysteries and mistakes happen - as in the case of the young Leonardo, whose hand is now being redistinguished from that of his master Verrocchio, and Tintoretto's daughter Marietta whose work has been almost completely subsumed into her father's.

The Renaissance was a period in which the nature and purpose of art was completely reassessed. Today is a similar period, and it is not surprising that academics also reassess our view of the past. The set book is an interesting response to this situation by traditional academics. It is an object-oriented examination of collaborative creativity in an age of individualism. We will use the book as a core and focus for the course, fleshing it out as necessary in class, putting some of its ideas and methods to the test, and placing it in the fuller context of the developing Humanities. This course is more than a survey of the high points of the Renaissance; it is an essay in the practice of art history.


There will be several assignments during the course:

  1. Find the web images we need for the course - artist assigned to you on day 1. Due: Midnight on Wednesday, September 15th.
    5% of course grade

  2. People and ideas, artists, works, date and media. Test on Monday, October 4th (or immediately after unit 9). All works up to unit 9.
    15% of course grade

    MEM: Fall Break 16th-19th October

  3. People and ideas, artists, works, date and media. Test on Wednesday, November 3rd (or immediately after unit 21). Same kinds of questions as before, material up to unit 20. Some questions from the first test may be repeated!
    20% of course grade

  4. Three of the projects numbers 23 to 33 - assigned by e-mail immediately after Fall Break. Due at the beginning of the relevant class. 500 words in short notes, word processed. 500 word paper requirements and grading policy on web for your info as needed. This will produce about seven of you who know the topic, while the rest of the class does not. So that seven is required to facilitate class discussion on those days.
    10% of course grade each

  5. The final is a take-home outline paper (or paper plan). Assignment is given at the end of the syllabus. Paper requirements and grading policy on web page for your info as needed. You are required to be present for the final on Wednesday, 17th December, 2.30-4.30 pm.
    30% of course grade

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