MA in the History of Art

Continuity and Innovation: Reframing Italian Renaissance Art from Masaccio to Michelangelo

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Course Description

This new team-taught MA looks at Italian art from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In order to enrich our understanding of the period, we will examine the visual arts in well-known centres, such as Florence, Rome and Venice, but also expand the reach of our interests to include several less-known cities, such as Perugia, Siena, Bologna, Parma, Mantua, and Naples. Our discussions on different art-historical narratives and on a broad range of themes such as authorship, originality, invention, and imitation will complicate our ideas about Italian renaissance art, allowing new and often unexpected insights into the works of both celebrated artists and of other figures who are less commonly considered in standard discussions of the period. Furthermore, by looking at the working practices and the visual languages of a range of artists, including Donatello, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Parmigianino, Giulio Romano, and Titian we will discuss issues of collaboration, competition, dissemination of visual ideas, and, more broadly, notions of change and continuity. We will approach the art of the period both chronologically and thematically, interrogating what has long constituted an art-historical canon in new ways, coherent with the most recent art-historical methodological and theoretical questions.


The course is structured across three terms. In the first term you will learn through lectures and discussions in larger groups with two tutors, and in smaller seminars directed at developing specific visual and textual skills. The second term will be focused on an in-depth engagement with specific special options. These will change year on year, but might include themes such as the relationship between art and literature, the translation and dissemination of visual idioms through prints and drawings, the interaction between Italian and Northern European art, and the role of antiquities in shaping Renaissance art. In the third term you will conduct research towards the final dissertation under close supervision, which will prepare you to conduct independent research at an advanced level, whether through a PhD or in a professional environment.

In encouraging discussion on intellectual and theoretical questions, we will learn through active engagement and discussion with tutors and peers. Special attention will be devoted to first-hand engagement with works of art, whether in the Courtauld Gallery, in London collections, or in our study trips to Italy and elsewhere. 

Language or other requirements

Standard entry requirements. A reading knowledge of Italian is highly desirable.