The course begins with an analysis of Raphael's frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura of the Vatican Palace, as a means of introducing the key themes which will be considered throughout: proportion in architecture, the body and the geometry of vision; rhetoric, both verbal and visual, and the related concepts of variety, decorum, and composition; poetic inspiration, emulation and imitation; and the revival of antiquity. These themes are then reviewed as they occur in the writings of Leon Battista Alberti, the most evolved theoretical texts on the visual arts of the period. Alberti’s works raises the question of whether he was describing current practice or setting out an ideal, and also whether he was writing principally for artists or for their patrons? Alberti’s elevated claims for painting, architecture and, to a lesser extent, sculpture as liberal arts, are then compared with the contemporary status of artists, whether operating from a workshop or employed at court. The course continues by looking in detail at the works of four key Italian artists – Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian – to assess how far they engaged with, or departed from, the Albertian paradigm. Albrecht Dürer, a northern European artist excelling in the less "noble" medium of printmaking, but also profoundly interested in issues of perspective and proportion, is considered to provide a non-Italian point of view on the Renaissance. Interspersed with these studies of single artists lectures may consider in greater detail particular themes raised by these artists’ works, such as the extent of artists’ knowledge of anatomy, the influence of the ruins of Rome, the Renaissance ideal of love, the creation of new styles by transgressing architectural rules for playful effect or to achieve “grace”, and the development in Venice of the genre of pastoral landscape. Alternatively, the work of other major artists may be considered such as Correggio, Parmigianino, Bandinelli etc. Having, broadly speaking, covered the period 1470-1550 chronologically, the course concludes by looking at the mid sixteenth-century reassessment of these artistic achievements in the writings of Dolce, Varchi and Vasari.
Total contact hours: 40
Private study hours: 260
Total study hours: 300
Method of assessment
Seminar Notes (2000 words) (10%)
Group Presentation (individual contribution 10 minutes) (40%)
Essay (2500 words) (50%)
Francis Ames-Lewis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2000).
Stephen J. Campbell and Michael W. Cole, A New History of Italian Renaissance Art (Thames & Hudson: London, 2012).
Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography (translation by George Bull available from Penguin).
Rona Goffen, Renaissance Rivals. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2002.
Ingrid D. Rowland, The Culture of the High Renaissance. Ancients and Moderns in Sixteenth-Century Rome (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1998).
Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (translated selections available from Penguin and Oxford University Press).
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module Level 5 students will be able to:
- analyse through the study of key artists (such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Durer and Titian), the stylistic developments, artistic techniques and working practices that characterised the art of the Renaissance;
- in association with the analysis of style and technique, examined the iconographical content of key works of art, and compared treatments of biblical and mythological subjects by different artists;
- explore the contexts in which, and the functions for which, important Renaissance works were made; for example, the revival of interest in the art of antiquity, the 'rise of the artist', or humanist ideas and their impact on religious thought;
- analyse the similarities and dissimilarities between the visual arts of the Renaissance and considered why certain of them, notably painting and architecture, achieved a higher status in the period.
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- ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
- The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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