ARTH(RS)335 Renaissance Art History Survey, Alice Parri, Summer II 2019 | SACI College of Art & Design Florence

ARTH(RS)335 Renaissance Art History Survey, Alice Parri, Summer II 2019

The course starts by looking at the precursors to the Renaissance in the 14th century and then traces the major artistic developments in Florence in the 15th century, a century whose goal was the revival of classical antiquity.

We begin our study of the 15th century with the 1401 competition for the Florence Baptistry doors (won by Ghiberti) and finish with Michelangelo's sculpture. As well as tracing stylistic developments, we look at the works of art in their political, cultural and historical contexts, considering such topics as patronage, the Guild system, the Renaissance workshop tradition, painting and sculptural techniques, and the ultimate destination of the works of art themselves.


Saturday, June 29
Field trip to Fiesole
(details to be announced).

​Wednesday, July 3
Meet at SACI for introduction to the course and lecture on Il Trecento (the 14th century). Then we will go to the Gothic church of Santa Croce with frescoes by Giotto and his followers, Donatello's sculpture, and Brunelleschi's Renaissance Pazzi Chapel.

Friday, July 5
Meet in Piazza della Signoria, outside Palazzo Vecchio next to the copy of David for a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, architecture by Vasari.

Saturday, July 6
Field trip to Pisa and Lucca to see several important Romanesque churches. In the morning we study the Cathedral, Baptistery, and Campanile of Pisa.The afternoon is spent in Lucca, where we see, among other interesting buildings and artworks, the Cathedral of St. Martino, St. Michele in Foro, St. Frediano. 8 am departure. Meeting details will be announced.

Wednesday, July 10
Meet on the steps of the Duomo, Campanile (Bell Tower) end. We first visit the Baptistry with its 13th-century Byzantine mosaics and then proceed to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo with its collection of medieval and Renaissance sculpture, a room dedicated to Brunelleschi, another to Donatello and medieval paintings.

NOTE: The tickets are valid for 72 hours and include entrance to Giotto's Campanile, the Roman/medieval excavations under Santa Maria del Fiore (i.e. the Duomo) and Brunelleschi's cupola (i.e. the actual Duomo). We do not visit these last three as a class. If you wish to climb up to the cupola you will need to make an advance booking, which you can do when the tickets have been purchased.

Friday, July 12
Meet outside the church of Santa Maria Novella, piazza Santa Maria Novella. We focus on the Romanesque-Gothic-Renaissance architecture. Next we go to the Church of the Carmine and the Brancacci Chapel to see Masaccio's revolutionary Renaissance frescoes. We finish at Brunelleschi's Santo Spirito.

Saturday, July 13
Field trip to Siena where we will focus on Sienese art and architecture of the 14th and 15th century. 8 am departure. Meeting details will be announced.

Wednesday, July 17
Meet at the sculpture museum of the Bargello, Via del Proconsolo 4. After the visit we then go to the Guild church of Orsanmichele and then to SACI for a lecture on Renaissance sculpture.

Friday, July 19
Meet in the middle of Piazza San Marco for a visit to Michelozzo's Renaissance monastery of San Marco with frescos by Fra Angelico. We finish our morning at Brunelleschi's San Lorenzo.

Saturday, July 20
Field trip to Arezzo and Monterchi. The main theme of the visit is the art of Piero della Francesca. 8.30 am departure. Meeting details to be announced.

Wednesday, July 24
Meet at the Accademia, Via Ricasoli 60. The visit is devoted to Michelangelo: We will see the David and other sculptures by the maestro in Casa Buonarroti and the Medici Chapels.

Friday, July 26
Meet in Piazza della Signoria next to the copy of David. We will visit Palazzo Vecchio to view later 16th-century art, early Renaissance sculpture and discuss Leonardo da Vinci's lost Battle of Anghiari originally painted for the Palazzo's Sala dei Cinquecento.

Full attendance is required at all sessions, including Saturdays.

Important Note



Grading is based on the result of the term paper as well as on attendance, effort, improvement, and demonstration of knowledge gained through the course.

Graduate Students
Students in MFA, MA, and Post-Bac programs are expected to complete additional assignments and to produce work at a level appropriate for students in a graduate program. They are graded accordingly and, if they successfully complete all course requirements for graduate students, receive graduate-level credit for the course.



In compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act Textbook Provision, SACI provides, when possible, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price of required and recommended reading.

Frederick Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture , Seventh Edition, Pearson, 2010 (or previous editions).
ISBN 9780205705818 (Retail price: $152.20)

(Focus on works emphasized in class)

Note: The SACI Worthington Library has numerous copies of the Frederick Hartt book that can be checked out for the entire term. There are also several copies kept on reserve for use in the library. Therefore, you do not need to purchase this text.

Note that the books below are available for loan or consultation in the SACI Worthington Library. It is not necessary to purchase any of them.

Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Penguin Classics, 1990.
ISBN: 9780140445343 (Retail price: $17)
(still fundamental to our concept of the Renaissance.)

Ferdinand Schevill, Medieval and Renaissance Florence, 2 vols., Harper Torchbooks, 1963.
ISBN: To Be Determined (Retail price: To Be Determined)
(excellent and thorough history of Florence in these periods.)

Gene Brucker, Renaissance Florence, University of California Press, 1983.
ISBN: 9780520046955 (Retail price: $28.95)

Christopher Hibbert, The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici, Penguin, 1974.
ISBN: 9780140050905 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Lisa Kaborycha, A Short History of Renaissance Italy, forward by Gene Brucker, Pearson, 2010.
ISBN: 9780136054849 (Retail price: $44.40)

Primary Sources
Cennino Cennini, The Craftsman's Handbook, trans. Daniel Thompson, Jr., Dover Publications, 2000.
ISBN: 9780486200545 (Retail price: $9.95)
(best source for anyone who wants to learn about fresco and panel painting techniques.)

Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. John Spencer, Yale University Press,1966.
ISBN: 9780300000016 (Retail price: $17)
(written 1435/36 this is the best mouthpiece of early Renaissance pictorial theory and was used as a handbook in Renaissance workshops.)

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists , Vol. 1, trans. George Bull, Penguin Classics, 1988.
​ISBN: 9780140445008 (Retail price: $15)

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists, Vol. 2, trans. George Bull, Penguin Classics, 1988.
ISBN: 9780140444605 (Retail price: $15)
(excellent biographies of Renaissance artists.)

George Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, Oxford University Press, 1966.
ISBN: 9780195014327 (Retail price: $19.99)
(strongly recommended for anyone with a weak background in Biblical iconography; provides a short, readable introduction to Old and New Testament subject matter.)

James Hall and Kenneth Clark, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, Richard D Irwin, 1985.
ISBN: 9780719541476 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology, Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance , Westview Press, 1972.
ISBN: 9780064300254 (Retail price: $55)
(first published in 1939, remains an excellent consideration of Renaissance humanism, for example neo-Platonism, in relation to pictorial and sculptural subject matter.)

Renaissance Art within its social/historical context

Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, a Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style , Oxford University Press, 1988.
ISBN: 9780192821447 (Retail price: $19.95)
(strongly recommended, excellent discussion of subject, puts paintings discussed in new light.)


H.W. Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton University Press, 1963.
ISBN: 9780691035284 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Bonnie Bennett and David Wilkins, Donatello, Moyer Bell, Phaidon Press, 1984.
ISBN: 9780714821757 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Adrian W.B.Randolph, Engaging Symbols; Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence , New Haven and London, Yale Univ. Press, 2002.
ISBN: 9780300092127 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

Laurie Schneider, “Donatello’s Bronze David,” The Art Bulletin, LV, 1973, 213-216.

Andrew Butterfield, “New Evidence for the Iconography of David in Quattrocento Florence,” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance ,” 6, 1995, 115-133.

Sarah Blake McHam, “Donatello’s Bronze David and Judith as Metaphors of Medici Rule in Florence,” The Art Bulletin, March, 2001, 32-47.

Andrew Butterfield, The Sculptures of Andrea del Verrocchio, Yale University Press, 1997.
ISBN: 9780300071948 (Retail price: $95)

Charles Seymour Jr., Michelangelo's "David": a Search for Identity, W.W. Norton, 1974.
ISBN: 9780393098891 (Retail price: To Be Determined)

A.Victor Coonin, From Marble to Flesh. The Biography of Michelangelo’s David , The Florentine Press, 2014. (Excellent new study of Michelangelo’s most famous statue.)
ISBN: 9788897696025 (Retail price: €25)

Term Papers

All students taking the course for credit are required to write a paper of 1,500 words (approximately 5 pages) on one topic of their choice related to examples of contrast/comparison discussed in class, through on site study as well as background reading from library books.

Please avoid doing the papers exclusively from the web. Use web only for JSTOR articles or other serious sources.

The 1,500-word paper is required and due in class on Friday, July 26.

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