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Art and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance


Module description

This module explores major developments in European art between 1150 and 1550. This period spans the glories of the French Gothic and the Italian Renaissance, and the module highlights the diversity of art in the period both north and south of the Alps. It focuses on three main themes: social structures and practices, including those of princely and royal courts and the increasingly important cities, with their impact on the patronage, production and reception of visual art; the beliefs and practices of the Christian religion, which in this period permeated all aspects of life; and issues of style, including questions of regional traditions, self-conscious emulation of the arts of the past and ideas of development.

Special attention is given to the relationships between regions. The module is not a survey. The main themes will be introduced in the first half of the first term and will be developed through the detailed study of selective examples in three blocks of classes focusing on the art of individual regions at different times within the period.

Indicative module syllabus

  • The Court and the City
  • Christianity and the visual arts
  • Style and its significance
  • Gothic art and architecture in Northern Europe
  • Patronage of the major royal courts and cities and exchange of ideas and artists
  • Development of painted images in different media and their devotional role
  • Art in late Medieval Italy
  • The Art of the Northern Renaissance
  • Italian Renaissance art

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge of:

  • the nature of stylistic innovations and traditions in European regions covered by the module
  • the themes covered in the module
  • the functions, typologies and iconographies of works produced in this period.