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

On Reserve:
F Hartt, Italian Renaissance Art, Prentice Hall, 1994
P and L Murray, The Art of the Renaissance, Thames and Hudson, 1963

Courses Syllabus Paper Grading Policy


new Electronic Telegraph
This is exciting! A previously unknown fresco by Perugino (Raphael's teacher) found in Assisi.


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 will be conducted almost entirely through student presentations (seminars) and dialogue, and you will be trained to do this over four class periods at the beginning of the course. BE SURE TO ATTEND THESE CLASSES! You will then be equipped to present your paper as an informed overview of the field, together with your own contribution or modification. You will manage your slides well, and you will successfully elicit debate. This course was intended to satisfy the ORC requirement, but we have too many students to make this possible, so it will retain its WRI credit and function as a "dry run" for the ORC credit. This means that some of you will not get to make oral presentations. You will all get to write the papers (one written-up seminar and final take-home), but the more senior students will be privileged with regard to the actual presentations on the assumption that less advanced students will have more opportunities in the future.

Each seminar will run for thirty minutes. It will be delivered from a word-processed OUTLINE. The outline and written-up paper will both be presented to me for grading on the day of the presentation. I will follow up most seminars with a commentary/clarification by e-mail to the class as a whole; and will give feedback on the presentation itself to the individual presenter, also by e-mail.

At the end of (or during) the presentation, two "respondents" will initiate discussion with questions they have prepared on the topic. Each student will take responsibility for this twice during the semester. In order to ensure full debate, one respondent will conceive the questions in terms of clarification/challenge (to the presenter or to the set book), and the other in terms of highlighting the implications of the topic. Both respondents will explain and consider their questions in short papers, presented to me for grading on the day of their response.

To help students bring the course into focus, there will be several discussion days in which we will look at the wider view and its implications.

In summary, the ultimate purpose of this course is to encourage students to arrive at their own conclusions about this important artistic period. They will do this mainly through a series of considered (i.e. overview and contribution) seminars or papers structured around the classic essay. Please see my Persuasive Writing Guide and grading rubric with regard to essays. They will supplement this effort with two sets of considered questions for debate in class, a series of class discussions led by me, and a take-home outline-paper as final exam.

Attendance at all classes is required, as is frequent participation. If discussion is sluggish, I shall issue each student with name tags in order to track and grade participation rate.

Summarized Requirements

Attendance (tracked), participation (tracked if necessary). (Up to 10% penalty)

Presentation of one thirty-minute seminar is required. This should be written up into a 1500-2000 word paper, complete with annotated bibliography and citations. Run word counter and state word count at end of paper. Submit word processed outline and word processed paper for grading on day of presentation. (30%)

Presentation of two sets of five-minute discussion questions is required. One set will concern clarifying or challenging the main thesis of the presentation or the relevant section of the set book; the second set will concern pointing out the implications of another presentation and its likely findings in relation to how it fits into the course as a whole, or what intellectual developments it makes possible. These should be written up into short papers, with bibliography and citations as relevant, and presented for grading at the relevant presentation. (20% each)

Take-home paper outline for final exam. Outline should be word processed and confined to two pages, single line spacing, plus annotated bibliography on third page. There should be NO handwriting on this assignment! (30%)

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