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ARTH 294: The Renaissance Artist


January 31: Introduction: see page entitled Introductory Comparison.

February 7: The Paris Book Industry and the World of the Medieval Craftsman: Paris was a major center of manuscript production during the later Middle Ages. The presence of an increasingly intellectual nobility, the university, and a prosperous upper middle class in Paris all created a market for books. Production of books involved the collaboration of different specialists. Parchment makers, scribes, decorators, miniature painters, and binders all contributed to the production of manuscripts. Documentary studies reveals that book production centered around the area around Notre Dame and the left-bank neighborhood of Saint Severin adjacent to the university. We will examine the workings of this major medieval industry. How do we understand the nature of the workshop? What were the priorities of the different specialists that contributed to the production of a manuscript? What can we say about the relative status of the different specialists? These are the types of questions I want to consider. We will focus primarily on my research on the role of the decorator. Read my article entitled Considering a Marginal Master (or download the article from JSTOR). To provide a general context read the page entitled Medieval Guilds and Craft Production. Images for class.

February 21: The Court Artist at the French Court: the class will focus on fourteenth and early fifteenth century examples of the court artist with special attention given to the Limbourg Brothers. Court culture and the significance of having a position as a member of the household of an artistocratic court played an important role in elevating the social status of artists. Review the page entitled: Court Culture: Representations of Intimacy . Pay special attention to the frontispiece showing Charles V being presented Bible historiale by Jean Vaudetar. See also the page I have dedicated to the structure of Louvre and late medieval courts. A good part of the class will be focused on the famous Limbourg Brothers. Review the page I have written focusing on the biography of these artists. For a discussion of the Trés riches heures see the page I have created.

Come prepared to talk about your paper topics. The syllabus lists today as the deadline for you to meet with me to discuss your topic. Remember I want you to have a clear sense of your topic and direction for your paper along with a bibliography by the middle of March (March 13).

February 28: Jan van Eyck as Court Painter for the Duke of Burgundy: we are going to shift our focus away from France to begin our consideration of Netherlandish art. I want to begin with Jan Van Eyck. To give you an introduction to the political, cultural, social, and intellectual contexts review the page entitled The Frontispiece to the Chroniques de Hainaut: An Introduction to Valois Burgundy. I want to use this as an introduction to an examination of one of Van Eyck's most famous images: the Rolin Madonna. Be aware the figure praying before the Virgin is Nicholas Rolin who also appears prominently in the Chroniques de Hainaut frontispiece. An important factor in our discussion will be the role of Van Eyck as the court painter for the Duke of Burgundy. See the page I have devoted to Jan Van Eyck as Court Artist. (Arnolfini)

March 6: Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden and the World of the Urban Painter: in contrast to Jan Van Eyck whose career revolved around his role as a court painter, the two other painters of the first generation, Robert Campin (aka the Master of Flémalle) and Rogier van der Weyden, made their careers as town painters. We will consider how these different social positions influenced some of the major works by these artists. In particular, we will examine the Mérode Altarpiece attributed to Robert Campin and St. Luke Drawing the Virgin by Rogier van der Weyden. Review the web page entitled Medieval Guilds and Craft Production. Pay particular attention to the discussion of the Petrus Christus painting and the discussion of the double portraits of the artist and his wife. Mixing North and South, I want you to review the excerpts from Cenino Cennini's Craftsman's Handbook I included on this same web page. Also consider the Sample Contracts from late fifteenth century Florence and Siena. Consider the major issues in making the contracts.

March 13: The Baptistry Competition in Florence and Competing Attitudes of the Artist: 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.

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.

March 27: Fifteenth century Florentine artists were concerned with transforming the social status of the artist. Read the following webpages: Anthony Blunt, "The Social Position of the Artist" , A.C. Crombie excerpts, excerpts from Alberti's On Painting, and Renaissance Conceptions of Man. (sl5)

April 3: We will devote the class to an examination of the Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci. Change in plan: I have decided to approach the topic of Leonardo in a slightly different way. I have been working on a page entitled The Mona Lisa and Her Sisters which is intended to put the Louvre painting in the context of Renaissance portraits of women in general and the other works of Leonardo in particular. Please be very much aware that you are looking at a rough draft with clumsy phrasing and probably broken links.

April 10: Read 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. Poetry of Michelangelo.

April 17: The Art of Albrecht Dürer and the Changing Conception of the Artist. Review web-page entitled Key Dates and Events in the Life of Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Dürer: the Human Figure and The Self Portraits of Albrecht Dürer. Introduction to Albrecht Dürer. We will examine how Dürer "fashions" different identities for himself out of the different types offered by his culture. In preparing for this class pay special attention to the excerpts from primary documents concerning Dürer. Note the different attitudes about the nature of the artist represented in the excerpts pertaining to Dürer's father and Dürer himself.

April 24: I want to consider the career of Sofonisba Anguisola and how she fashioned her role as a female artist. I also want to begin oral presentations next week.

Velazquez, Las Meninas.

May 15 : Prado Epiphany

Haywain Triptych (Wikipedia); Garden of Earthly Delights (Wikipedia)

For Mona Lisa fans: the New York Times published the linked article this weekend comparing the Louvre and Prado versions of the Mona Lisa:

Nota Bene: for all of you Van Eyck enthusiasts check out the newly created web site for the Ghent Altarpiece. It is extraordinary.

Wolfe Illustrations


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