Syllabus for Art 203


Art of the Italian Renaissance  203A     Fall   2013    Dana 101

M-W: 2-3:15 Dr. D. Sadler  Office:  Dana 109   ext. 6245

Office Hours: W: 3:30-5 or by appointment!

Required text:  Stephen J. Campbell and Michael W. Cole, Italian Renaissance Art (New York:  Thames & Hudson), 2012.



Course Objectives:  This course will concentrate on the apogee of painting, sculpture and architecture in Italy. The art of the Trecento, Quattrocento and Cinquecento (c. 1300-1550) traces a visual arc between the rediscovery of nature by Giotto to the visual exploration of artists like Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello to the grace of Botticelli, and culminates in the dominant personalities of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.  The period also embraces the reaction generated by these creative “titans”–that is, Mannerism.  What were the points of intersection between these periods of innovation and experimentation in the north and the south?  Venice will provide a wonderfully spirited resistance to the High Renaissance in Rome and the careers of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese will be contrasted to those of Michelangelo and Raphael.  Although the course by definition focuses on the great masters, we will also consider issues of gender (where are the “great mistresses”?) and the role of patronage as it evolved during the Renaissance.  Matters of technique as well as social, economic, and political changes will be discussed in relation to the birth of this golden age of Renaissance art.  Finally, we shall consider the unique position that art occupied in the Renaissance.


Goals: To examine the progression of artists and patrons from the late thirteenth century through the sixteenth century:  what societal forces hindered or helped artists find their voices?

To improve analytic skills and critical thinking in the field of art history

To encourage, develop, and refine students’ ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in written form, about art history


Attendance:  Your presence, both physical and mental is required.  You are permitted three absences.  Use them wisely. If you surpass the three absence limit, you will need documentation from medical personel, etc. justifying your absence.  Your grade will be lowered 1/3 of a letter after the 4th absence, and continue to decline accordingly. Remember to sign the attendance sheet each class perod as this will be the sole record of your presence in the class—as well as your brilliant comments.



Course Requirements and Grading: 


  • There will be two exams, one administered around mid-semester and the other given as a final, though the latter is not weighed as such. The format of the exams is a series of slide identifications, short answers and essays. (25% each)
  • A short paper (7-10 pages) will be assigned the second week of class and is due before Thanksgiving Break.  It is intended as a finite research project on a specific aspect of the course. (20%)
  • A visual analysis of a work of art in the High Museum will be assigned during the first month of class (10%)
  • Presentation of two articles to the class (lead discussion, prepare power point, and post discussion questions to the blog: (20%)
  • These exercises are meant to expose you to all the tools in the art historian’s bag of tricks. 
  • Your completion of the reading assignments and participation in class discussions are vital to the health of the course.


Credit and Workload:  Although 3 hours will be spent in class, you will be spending a minimum of 5-7 hours out of class completing the reading for this course, visiting the High Museum to both see Renaissance works in the flesh and write your visual analysis, preparing two scholarly articles to present to the class in addition to researching and writing your paper, posing and responding to questions on all the supplementary articles on the course blog, and attending art history lectures hosted by neighboring institutions.


Moodle:  Be sure to check Moodle frequently for any changes or breaking news in Art 203!


Disability Services:  If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please see Kelly Deasy in the Office of Academic Advising and Student Disability Services to register for these services. Students that receive accommodation checklists, please meet with me to discuss the provisions of those accommodations as soon as possible. 



Academic Integrity:  It is expected that all students will abide by the policies of the Honor Code.  Students who violate these policies through plagaiarism, collaboration on projects without permission, submitting the same work for multiple classes, and any other infractions outlined in the Honor Code will be asked to turn themselves in to the Honor Council.  If you have any questions about academic integrity, please speak with me.



Course Evaluations:  Near the end of the semester you will be notified by e-mail and provided with a link to follow to complete course evaluations online outside of class.  Your feedback is extremely valuable to me, the department, and the administration.  With the help of your insightful comments, I will be able to improve the course the next time I teach it.







Week of August 26:         Introduction to the Renaissance:  Historical Background/concept of the Renaissance in light of historiography

                                             Reading:  Campbell & Cole, Introduction


Week of September 2:         The Medium is the Message:  Fresco vs.Tempera          —The Trecento

                                                                                          Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 1


Week of September 9:                   Giotto!!!                                   

Reading: Richard Trexler, “Florentine Religious Experience: The Sacred Image,” Studies in the Renaissance 19 (1972): 7-41

                                                                                          Research Paper Assignment


Week of September 16:                   Sculpture takes the lead: 1400!

Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 2

Geraldine Johnson, “Activating the Effigy:  Donatello’s Pecci Tomb in Siena Catheral,” The Art Bulletin 77, no. 3 (1995): 445-459.


Week of September 23:         The Bubonic Plague…and its aftermath…   What is the International Style?

                                                       Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 3

Louise Marshall, “Manipulating the Sacred:  Image and Plague in Renaissance Italy,” Renaissance Quarterly 47, no. 3 (1994): 485-532.

                                             Visit to High Museum 9/28/13


       Week of September 30:                   A Piazza for Everything and Everything in its Piazza!  Perspective!

Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 4

Jeffrey Ruda, “Flemish Painting and the Early Renaissance in Florence:  Questions of Influence,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 47, no. 2 (1984): 210-236.

Exam I



Week of October 7:                    The Legacy of Masaccio!

Reading:  Campbell & Cole, chs. 5 & 6

Andrée Hayum, “A Renaissance Audience Considered:  The Nuns of S. Apollonia and Castagno’s ‘Last Supper,’” The Art Bulletin 88, no. 2 (2006): 243-266.

         Fall Break!!!!!



Week of October 14:                  Alberti! And when in Rome…

 Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 7

James A. W. Heffernan, “Alberti on Apelles: 

Word and Image in ‘De Pictura,’” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 2, no. 3 (1996): 345-359.




Week of October 21:                  The Scientific Spirit ….

Reading: Campbell & Cole, chs. 8 & 9

Randolph Starn, “Reinventing Heroes in Renaissance Italy,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17, no. 1, The Evidence of Art: Images and Meaning in History (Summer: 1986): 67-84.



Week of October 28:                    Science, Poetry, and Prose

Reading: Campbell & Cole, chs. 10 & 11

Patricia Simons, “Women in Frames:  The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture,”History Workshop 25 (1988): 4-30.

Visual Analysis Due!




Week of November 4:           The High Renaissance!

                                             Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 12

                                             Charles Burroughs, “Monuments of Marsyas:  Flayed Wall and Echoing Space in the New Sacristy, Florence,” Artibus et Historiae 22, no. 44 (2001): 31-49.



Week of November 11:           Rome! Florence! Venice! 

Reading:  Campbell & Cole, chs. 13 & 14

Regina Stefaniak, “Replicating Mysteries of the Passion:  Rosso’s Dead Christ with Angels,” Renaissance Quarterly 45, no. 4 (1992): 677-738.



Week of November 18:                  Michelangelo!

                                             Reading: Campbell & Cole, ch. 15


Week of November 25:                    Mannerism

                                             Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 16

                                             All Papers are due        

                                             Thanksgiving Holiday




Week of December 2:         Venice takes on the High Renaissance

Reading:  Campbell & Cole, ch. 17

Fredrika H. Jacobs, “Aretino and Michelangelo, Dolce and Titian:  Femmina, Masculo, Grazia,” The Art Bulletin 82, no. 1 (2000): 51-67.                                   




Week of December 9:         The Last Gasp:  Spätstil of Michelangelo and Titian

                                             Reading:  Campbell & Cole, chs. 18 & 19

Lynn Catterson, “Michelangelo’s Laocoön?”  Artibus et Historiae 26, no. 52 (2005): 29-56.

Exam II





Visual Analysis



The tools you are learning in this class involve a new type of literacy, visual literacy.  The object of this assignment is to sharpen your eyeballs  (ouch!) by describing an object you select in the High Museum.  The latter has a fine collection of Renaissance through Modern art objects for you to choose from and your first visit should consist of selecting an object that “speaks” to you.  Please consult with me if you are not certain of the suitability of the work for this assignment; in general, any object that falls within the time period covered by this course is “game.”  Note the information from the wall text, and then describe the object as fully as you can.  Writing about Art provides a useful template for this exercise.  Your notes should be copious—every aspect of the work captured on paper; material, state of preservation, details only visible at close range, aesthetic niceties, observations that may elude the casual visitor….in short, describe the object to death.  Your words should be able to conjure up the visual image in your reader’s mind.  After you distil your description and fashion it into beautiful prose, your paper should be 1-2 pages (typed) and should have undergone several drafts/ readings by your peers. 


Don’t hesitate to consult me during this process and remember to read the sample essays in Writing about Art or other guides to art history writing.





Article Presentation/ Approach to Assignment


The article that you will find on Moodle under assignments for this course may be printed out, or saved to another disk for easy access. The article that is assigned presents a different view of the material than that covered in your textbook.  Often controversial interpretations or readings of works of art inspire a rather adverse reception by historians of art.  Such is life, no?  The object of this assignment is to consider the author’s views, weigh the evidence as well as the manner in which it is presented, and offer your thoughts on the subject.  Again, this is a vehicle to hone your critical skills in assessing art historical scholarship.  You may find it useful to work in small groups to discuss the article and your reactions to it.  After you analyze the author’s thesis, evaluate its merits and deficiencies, and reflect on the value of this contribution,  you should have prepared a pithy but persuasive Power Point that addresses the main tenents of this article.   




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