This course studies the art and architecture of the Italian peninsula from ca. 1300 to 1550, the period known as the Renaissance. We will consider the revival of antiquity in humanist thought and writings and the contemporary developments in the visual arts, beginning in the early 1300s with Giotto di Bondone. We then move to the great cities and humanist courts of the fifteenth century—Florence, Urbino, Mantua, etc.—and their patronage of sculptors, painters and architects to express their political identities and ideologies. In the sixteenth century, we transition to the High Renaissance, a period of brief duration (1500-1520) but whose artists—especially Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael—attained a level of creative accomplishment that served as a model for years to come. The prominent artistic centers of Florence, Milan, Rome, and Venice will serve as cultural, social, and political contexts for considering the development of art and architecture.

We will consider artistic innovations in a variety of media and concentrate on artists whose works shaped this period of art history, including (but not limited to) Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, Masaccio, Alberti, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, Giorgione, and Titian.

Classes will consist mainly of lecture and discussion in which major themes, such as iconography, connoisseurship, patronage, classical influence, religious context, and artistic technique, are considered in detail. Students will be challenged to interpret imagery with a view toward appreciating the rich and complex circumstances of the period. The artistic aims and achievements of individual artists will also be assessed.

By the end of the course, students will be able to recognize different styles, materials, and techniques; identify key artists and their masterworks; and discuss the major issues and themes associated with the period.