Renaissance Painting and Sculpture (Art 254)

Professor Michelli E-mail
Ext 3098
Flaten Auditorium
Monday, Wednesday, Friday,
9.05-10.00 a.m.
Office Hours by appointment

Required set book:
J T Paoletti and G M Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, Prentice Hall, Inc, 1997

Courses Syllabus What you should be doing now Paper Grading Policy


This course covers the painting and sculpture of the Italian Renaissance and Mannerist periods, i.e. from c.1400 to c.1600. Traditionally, this period is studied through the productions of one great artist after another. Each product has to be examined in light of the avowed Classicising intentions of the period, and these not only dictated the overall appearance of the product, but also imposed the imperative that every work should contribute to the progress and development of art as a whole. Thus a study of the Renaissance and Mannerist periods is a study of artistic progress. This is still a valid approach. Recently, however, patronage and context have been recognized as important contributing factors which create additional meaning for the works as personal and political statements for the patrons. In this approach the emphasis has moved from the individual artists and their art in favor of the individual patrons and their politics. The set book takes this approach.

It is true that the visual phenomenon of the Renaissance would not have happened without the determination of a few wealthy patrons to make their political intentions visible. This is true of most periods, and it is especially clear in Florence during the early part of the Renaissance. However, to concentrate solely on the issues of the patrons is to forget that artists cannot, ultimately, be controlled and that they will find ways to produce the kind of art that they believe in. Ghiberti, for example, managed to get his commission for the Baptistery doors changed in spite of his patrons' strictures about their design; Donatello did the same with his statue of St Mark at Orsanmichele, and eventually became almost unemployable in his determination to produce what he considered best; Michelangelo did the same with the Sistine Chapel Ceiling; and at the same time Giovanni Bellini informed a potential patron that she could not dictate what he would paint because he was "accustomed to choose his own subjects". The required book sets up an excellent context for the art. But we will be studying the progress and development of art and artists too.

The course is divided into three sections. In the first, we will follow the set book quite closely in a series of discussion-classes. This will take us through the Early Renaissance and help students become accustomed to speaking out in class. In the second section we will start to diverge from the book in a series of student-presented seminars concerning specific artists (training provided). This will take us through the High Renaissance. In the third section we will use the book as a repository of images through which to study Mannerism in a further series of student-presented seminars.

The ultimate purpose of this course is to encourage students to arrive at their own conclusions about this important artistic period. To that end, the professor will try to reduce her role gradually to organiser, trainer, and encourager as the course progresses, allowing students to have an increasingly dominant role in class debate. She will probably find this very difficult and you will sometimes have to make conscious efforts to claim your right to be heard. But it is hoped that by the end of the course you will have thrashed your way through the material, compared your findings with your peers and with the professor, and have established a personal understanding of Renaissance and Mannerist art.


There are reading assignments for every class and you are required to read them.

The syllabus is also a review list of works which you are required to know (artist, name of work, date, location) so that you can refer to them easily during class discussion and debate. These will be tested every third week.

Participation in class discussion is required in all three sections of the course, and will be encouraged through the use of name tags. Aim to participate at least once per class.

Presentation of one ten-minute seminar is required. This should be written up into a 1500 word paper, complete with bibliography and citations.

One 1500-2000 word paper is also required. If your seminar falls in the first half of the semester, then you should submit your paper Friday, 14th November. If your seminar falls in the second half of the semester, then you should submit your paper Monday, 29th September.

One post per week to your e-mail group is also required. This will begin when the class arrives at unit 4 in the syllabus. One possible way of generating topics is to look at the works assigned for the next few class units, notice what observations and questions occur to you about them, check out the set book to see if it satisfies you on these points, and post your findings to the list. 5 - 20 lines of text is sufficient, although more is acceptable (but don't overdo it!). When seminars begin, you might consider addressing your comments and questions to the people who have the next couple of seminars in your group. Answering other people's postings is also acceptable after the first week. From then on, ask questions, make comments or post replies as you like. Courtesy is required at all times. If I find flaming, I will remove the culprit(s) from their lists and they will have to fulfill this requirement by posting to me. I will then forward their postings to the lists, if I consider them suitable.

Course Grading

1 seminar (performance 40 pts, content 160 pts)
1 paper
3 identifications and terms tests (55 pts each)
200 pts
200 pts
165 pts
} 84%
28 e-mail posts (1.6 pts each)
30 class participations (0.5 pt each)
Class attendance (1 pt each)
50 pts
15 pts
40 pts
} 16%

NOTE: good grades on your seminar and paper will not produce a good course grade (and may not even pass the course) unless the other requirements are met equally well!

Home Syllabus What you should be doing now Paper Grading Policy