“A Talent For Every Noble Thing”: Art and Architecture in Italy 1300-1600


This class is an in-depth survey of the major monuments of Italian art and architecture from 1300 to 1550. Equal emphasis will be given to the canon of art works by artists such as Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo; to readings of major critics and historians of Italian art; and to the broader intellectual trends and social realities and movements that provide a context for our understanding the artist’s and, to a lesser extent, the critics’ creations. Thus, unified Italian churches will be juxtaposed with gender-segregated social practice, theories of genius with concepts of handicraft, pagan ideals with Christian rituals. The first semester will focus on a close reading of texts surrounding the first polemical pamphlets about art in early modern history, Alberti’s On Painting and On Architecture, and will include works by Erwin Panofsky, Michael Baxandall, and Anthony Grafton. The second semester will engage the intellectual and aesthetic debates surrounding Michelangelo as genius, model, courtier, and outcast. Class papers will deal with developing a vocabulary for compositional analysis, critical issues in Italian intellectual and social history, and varied interpretive strategies applied to works of visual art and culture. Conference projects may engage from a variety of critical and historical viewpoints, European art and architecture from 1300 to 1800, and relevant historical and literary issues from 1400 to 1700.