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January 31: Historical, Social, Economic, and Artistic Contexts for Italian Renaissance Art: review the material included on the page entitled: Introductory Material. Pay special attention to the excerpts from Cennino Cennini's Craftsman's Handbook and the samples of artists' contracts. In reading these documents consider the priorities in the making of works of art and the respective roles of the artists and patrons. Read Adams, pp. 2-18.
February 7 : we will begin our discussion of the theme "The Development of the Individual." Read the excerpts from John Martin's article to give a framework for traditional and contemporary discussions of the nature of individuality.
The specific topic for this week will be "'God becomes Man': the Art of Giotto." Review the page dedicated to the comparison of Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna to Cimabue's Santa Trinità Madonna. We will also be focusing on Giotto's famous frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua. Review the web pages I have developed for the Arena Chapel. Be aware that this page leads to others dedicated to specific parts of the fresco cycle. Read Adams, pp. 25-39.
For twelfth and thirteenth century precursors to the art of Cimabue and Giotto see the page entitled Italian Painting of the 12th to Early 14th Centuries.
February 14: First Seminar: The class will focus on Florentine sculpture during the first two decades of the Quattrocento (fifteenth century). We will begin with the famous competition between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi for the doors of the Baptistry. In reviewing the material on this page and carefully comparing the two extant panels take on the role of a judge for the competition. There is not a right and wrong answer here. What is most important is to consider the criteria on which you base your judgement. An important issue in this comparison is to detect important shifts in the conception of the artist. In reading the accounts consider the different attitudes Ghiberti and Brunelleschi have concerning the nature of the artist.
As a way of engaging the class in this discussion, I want to divide up the class into three groups. One group will be the judges. They will have two responsibilities: the first one is to articulate the significance of this competition and the subsequent project. What is the significance of the Baptistry in Florentine history? Why were the doors of the Baptistry a major commission? The second responsibility of the judges is to judge the presentations by the other groups. Each of the two other groups will take on the role of presenting the principal rival panels by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. The representatives of the artists should deal with issues like the stylistic characteristics and innovations, the technical aspects of the panels, and the nature of the temperament of the respective artist. You should come to class prepared to participate in your assigned group. I will dedicate the first part of class to allowing the groups to meet and plan their presentations.
We will also be considering some other major public monuments. The Arte della Lana who was responsible for the Duomo commissioned four artists to make statues of the Evangelists for the facade of the Duomo. Compare these four figures. Probably the most significant sculptural project was the completion of the series of patron saints for the niches of the guilds on the exterior of Orsanmichele. Compare and contrast the conception of the human figure presented in these figures. Pay special attention to the figures by Ghiberti (John the Baptist and St. Matthew), Donatello (St. Mark and St. George), and Nanni di Banco (the Quattro Coronati). As an historical and intellectual context for this discussion, I want to examine the ideology associated with the development of Civic Humanism. Read the excerpts from the article Albert Rabil. Pay special attention to Rabil's account of the historical situation of Florence at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Also read the page dedicated to Civic Humanism. Pay special attention here to the quotations from the writings of Leonardo Bruni. Nota bene: there is a heavy amount of reading associated with this class. For the success of the seminar, it is crucial that you approach the assignment thoughtfully. Give careful consideration to the questions I raise in these web pages. Please don't assume other students will pick up the slack. Read Adams, pp. 58-81.
See also see the web-site made by the National Gallery of Art to accompany the 2005 exhibition Monumental Sculpture from Renaissance Florence.
Tuesday, February 21: we will complete the seminar dedicated to early fifteenth century Florentine sculpture. We left off with a consideration of the Donatello St. Mark and the Ghiberti St. John the Baptist. Look at the other works from Orsanmichele associated with these artists. Also pay attention to Nanni di Banco's Quattro Coronati. The seminar paper will be due the class after vacation.
Competing Identities: We will go on to look at the art of Masaccio. Review the page I have constructed focusing on his major fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel. Also consider the comparison between the work of Gentile da Fabriano and Masaccio. Read Adams, pp. 83-103.
Tuesday, March 7: First Seminar Paper is due. This class will focus on the question of patronage as a means of constructing power. Review the web page I have constructed focusing on Medici Patronage. Adams, pp. 122-160.
Tuesday, March 21: "Man Becomes a God": "The Divine" Michelangelo. Adams, pp. 312-321;334-343. Read also Vasari's biography of Michelangelo. Vasari was a sixteenth century, Florentine artist who followed Michelangelo. He wrote a text entitled the Lives of the Artists. This text is a major document in the development of Art History. The structure of Vasari's account gives a privileged position to Michelangelo. In reading Vasari's account use it as giving an outline of the career of Michelangelo but also see it as constructing the fame and identity of Michelangelo. Our discussion will revolve around images included on web-page dedicated to major works of Michelangelo.
Tuesday, March 28: The Mona Lisa and her sisters: Images of Women in Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century Art. Adams, pp. 240-245, 291-311; 357-374. I want to explore the gender construction of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but to do this it is important to understand the social and artistic contexts for the painting in order to appreciate the innovations in Leonardo's painting. Today's class will examine these contexts. Read the excerpts from the essay by Dale Kent "Women in Renaissance Florence" which is included in the exhibition catalog entitled: Virtue and Beauty. Also read the excerpts from Patricia Simons's article "Women in Frames: The Gaze, the Eye, the Profile in Renaissance Portraiture." Review also the page I have dedicated to the frescos in the Tournabuoni Chapel. These provide us with interesting insights that gender played in the civic life of Florence. No survey of western art since the Renaissance can ignore an examination of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. In the context of our discussion of the construction of gender in art, this painting can also claim a central place. To give a recent critical perspective on Leonardo's Mona Lisa, read the excerpts from Mary Garrard's article "Leonardo da Vinci: Female Portraits, Female Nature." Images of Women in Fifteenth Century Art. Donatello's David.
We will continue our discussion of images of women in Italian Renaissance art, by examining the development of the female nude. We will focus in particular on the Venetian artist, Titian's Venus of Urbino. Although not the first female nude in the Renaissance, this work has come to play a central role in the development of this category of art. I have prepared a webpage on the Venus of Urbino which includes some of the recent scholarly responses to this work. In reviewing this material pay attention to the connections you notice to the material included in the earlier material we have discussed.
Tuesday, April 4: Putting the World into Perspective: we watch a video entitled "Point of View". This was made as a part of a series by James Burke entitled the "Day the Universe Changed." It is a quirky presentation but does nicely bring out the cultural and ideological implications of the development of linear perspective. Read the excerpts from modern critics discussing the Power of Perspective. Review page entitled Putting God into Perspective.
Tuesday, April 11: Only five students appeared. We had a great discussion about issues pertaining to Art History and the direction of the Art Department. We decided to put off the material scheduled for this week until next week.
Tuesday, April 18: Different Approaches to Antiquity: Botticelli's Mythologies and the art of Mantegna. Adams, pp. 229-238; 260-269.
Tuesday, April 25: Renaissance Concepts of Knowledge and Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura. Adams, pp. 344-347. Explore the elements of the fresco cycle of the Stanza della Segnatura. See if you can articulate patterns and relationships between the different elements of the fresco cycle.
Tuesday, May 4: We will examine the development of Mannerism. A work on want to focus on is the Transfiguration that Raphael left unfinished in 1520 at the time of his death. Read the discussion of this painting in Adams, pp. 351-353. Compare this painting to what we discussed last week in the Stanza della Segnatura. Also read the chapter in Adams entitled "Michelangelo after 1520 and the Transition to Mannerism." (pp. 379-399). Mannerism.
The seminar papers on the Stanza della Segnatura are due.