This course is an introduction to the art of the Italian Renaissance. It starts with a comparative overview of the European art scene in the late Gothic period -- including the Trecento and the International Style -- and ends with Mannerism. Giotto, who attained unparalleled fame in his lifetime, was praised by his contemporaries for having revived painting after many centuries of ‘darkness’. His achievement was indeed groundbreaking: the natural point of view and sense of inner logic in Giotto’s art were major breakthroughs in medieval perceptions of painted space. These innovations represent a definitive break with the anti-classical mentality of Gothic culture in Northern Europe and the hieratic Byzantine art that had dominated the Italian artistic scene. While Giotto may not have exactly revived the art of painting, he established a new visual standard that paved the way for the outburst of creativity one century later in Florence. Invention of perspective and enthusiasm for the rediscovered antiquity introduced entirely new modes of representation which and led to increasingly bold experiments. The Renaissance produced extremely individualistic artists whose fame sometimes reached almost mythical proportions. The most prominent, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarotti, are generally considered to represent the high point of Western culture and the paragon of artistic achievement. Leonardo’s extrovert nature and extensive interests in the natural world including his work as engineer and inventor position him as the ‘Renaissance man’ par excellence. On the other extreme is the introvert Michelangelo, whose Sistine Chapel ceiling is an elaborate reinterpretation of the history of humanity by an artist of imposing stature and powerful inner vision. Renaissance art was very much the product of a new inquisitive mindset and a new outlook. This introduction to Renaissance art, aesthetics and representational practice, will entail a study of the humanistic discourse and its implications on the visual arts, of the intellectual and cultural contexts in which art was produced, ranging from popular literature, patronage, social and political life, to cultural myths and religious practice.

For further information on the course see the Syllabus, Requirements and Readings.