History of Western Art: Renaissance to Revolution, 1300–1800

Last updated July 6, 2022

Who was Leonardo da Vinci? Who were the great female artists of the Baroque? What role did art play in the French Revolution? This course will survey art and architecture made from the Late Gothic in Italy through the Enlightenment. We will focus on turning points in the historical narrative including the rise of Florence and Siena, the Reformation and its impact on Baroque art in Catholic and Protestant Europe, the scientific revolution, and the political revolutions of the 18th century. The art and architecture produced from the early 1300s to the end of the 1700s saw some of the most important art the world has ever produced and laid the foundation for the world we live in now.

The following college level course is designed for a fifteen week semester.

Session 1: Course introduction and historical overviews

The basics
Why look at art?
How to do visual analysis
Art historical analysis with Goya’s Third of May, 1808
What is art history?
Introduction to art historical analysis

A brief history of Western culture
Common questions about dates
The five major world religions
What maps tell us
A brief history of the body in Western sculpture
A brief history of the body in Western painting

The Classical World
A brief moment that lasted 2,500 years, the Acropolis of Athens
The classical orders
Iktinos and Kallikrates (sculptural program, Phidias), Parthenon, 447 – 432 B.C.E.

Between two hills, the Roman Forum
The Capitoline, the Palatine, the forum and the imperial fora
Santa Maria Antiqua, sarcophagus and palimpsest wall

The Medieval
Introduction to the Middle Ages

The long history of Hagia Sophia
An Anglo-Saxon treasure from distant lands, Sutton Hoo
The Carolingian project
Pilgrimages and Crusades after the millennium
What does heaven look like? Gothic architecture at Chartres and Amiens


Session 2: 14th Century in Central Italy

Materials and techniques
Gold-ground panel painting
The conservator’s eye: Gaddi, Saint Julian

The basics
Christianity, an introduction
Standard scenes from the life of Christ in art
Architecture and liturgy
A new pictorial language: the image in Early Medieval art
Introduction to Late Gothic art
The Black Death
Altarpieces in context

Siena in the Late Gothic, an introduction

The Rucellai Madonna, 1285-86, tempera on panel (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
Maesta, 1308-11 (Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena)

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Allegory of Good Government, Effects of Good Government in the City and the Country, and Allegory and Effects of Bad Government, c. 1337-40 (Palazzo Pubblico, Siena)

Simone Martini
Annunciation, 1333 (Uffizi, Florence)

Florence in the Late Gothic period, an introduction

Santa Trinita Madonna and Child Enthroned, 1280-90 video and essay

Ognissanti Madonna
Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel, Padua, c. 1305 article, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

The Black Death

Global Influence
The David Vases, 1351 (Yuan Dynasty), porcelain, cobalt and clear glaze, China
The Alhambra, Spain, begun 1238 (Nasrid Dynasty), Granada, Spain
Mohammed ibn al-Zain, Basin (Baptistère de Saint Louis), c. 1320-40, brass inlaid with silver and gold, 22.2 x 50.2 cm, Egypt or Syria (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Terms to know and use
Classical Antiquity, Middle Ages/Medieval, patron, commission, guild, Old/New Testament, formal analysis, composition, naturalism, abstraction, illusion, free-standing, tempera, fresco, Humanism, foreshortening, chiaroscuro / modeling, volume, altarpiece, prophet, diptych, triptych, polyptych, transcendent


Session 3: 15th Century Architecture and Sculpture in Italy (Early Renaissance)

Art terms explained
Chiaroscuro explained
Foreshortening explained
Linear perspective explained
Atmospheric perspective explained

The Basics
What is art history?
Standard scenes from the life of Christ in art

A beginner’s guide to Renaissance Florence
Linear perspective: Brunelleschi’s experiment
How one-point linear perspective works  and Linear perspective interactive
Florence in the Early Renaissance

Sculpture & Architecture
Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac (Baptistery), 1401-02 

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gates of Paradise, East Doors of the Florence Baptistery, bronze, 1425-52

Filippo Brunelleschi
Dome of the Cathedral of Florence, 1420-36
Pazzi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, begun 1420s, completed 1460s

Nanni di Banco, Four Crowned Saints, c. 1410-16, marble, 6′ high, Orsanmichele, Florence

St. Mark, 1411-13, marble, 93″ high (Orsanmichele, Florence)
Feast of Herod, panel on baptismal font, 1423-27, gilded bronze (Siena Cathedral)
David, c. 1440s, bronze (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence)
Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata, 1445-53, bronze, 12′ 2″ high, Padua

Leon Battista Alberti, Façade of Santa Novella

Global Influence
Great Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe (Shona Peoples), 11-15th centuries, Zimbabwe
Hagia Sophia as a mosque
The Templo Mayor and the Coyolxauhqui Stone

Terms to know and use
guild, contrapposto, equestrian sculpture, republic, niche, linear perspective (orthogonals,  vanishing point, horizon line), Pietra Serena, lost-wax process, Byzantine, mosque, Mexica


Session 4: Museum field trip


Session 5:  15th Century Painting in Italy & Spain (Early Renaissance)

The Basics
How to recognize Italian Renaissance art
What maps tell us
How to do visual analysis
Introduction to art historical analysis

The Early Renaissance in Florence

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423, tempera (Uffizi, Florence) reframed

Virgin and Child Enthroned, 1426, tempera on panel (National Gallery, London)
Holy Trinity, c. 1427, Fresco, 667 x 317 cm, Santa Maria Novella, Florence
The Tribute Money, 1427, fresco, Brancacci Chapel, SM del Carmine, Florence
Expulsion, c. 1424-27, fresco, Brancacci Chapel, S.M. del Carmine, Florence

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, c. 1438-47, fresco, Convent of San Marco, Florence

Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter, Sistine Chapel, 1481-83, fresco, 10 feet 10 inches x 18 feet (Vatican)

Sandoro Botticelli
La Primavera (Spring), 1481-82, tempera on panel, 203 x 314 cm (Uffizi, Florence)
The Birth of Venus, 1483-85, tempera on panel, 172.5 x 278.5 cm (Uffizi, Florence)

Central Italy
Piero della Francesca,
Baptism of Christ, 1450s, tempera on wood, 167 x 116 cm (National Gallery, London)
Flagellation of Christ, c. 1455-65, oil and tempera, 58.4 × 81.5 cm (Urbino, Italy)
The Resurrection, c. 1463-5, fresco (Sansepolcro, Italy)

The Renaissance in Spain

Global Influence
Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, begun 1315
The Forbidden City (Imperial Palace Museum), Beijing, China, completed 1420
Introduction to the Inka and Machu Picchu, Peru, c. 1450–1540

Terms to know and use
bronze, lost-wax casting, secular, sacra conversazione, coffer, barrel vault, pilaster, Classical orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), continuous narrative, St. Peter, Pantheon, memento mori


Session 6: The Renaissance in Northern Europe

The Basics
The Northern Renaissance, an introduction
Introduction to Burgundy in the 15th century
Burgundy and the Burgundian Netherlands

Melchior Broederlam, Crucifixion Altarpiece, 1398 (Musée des Beaux Arts, Dijon)

Claus Sluter (with Claus de Werve)
Mourners, Tomb of Philip the Bold, 1410 (Musée des Beaux Arts, Dijon)
The Well of Moses, 1395-1405, Dijon, France

Robert Campin (workshop), Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), 1425-28 (The Met)

Jan van Eyck
The Ghent Altarpiece, completed 1432, oil on wood,(St. Bavo, Ghent, Belgium)
Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban, 1433, oil on oak, 26 x 19cm (National Gallery)
Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, tempera, oil on oak panel, 82.2 x 60 cm (National Gallery)
The question of pregnancy in Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait

Rogier van der Weyden
Last Judgment, 1443-51, oil on panel, 215 x 560 cm (Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune)
Crucifixion, with the Virgin and St. John, c. 1460, oil on panel (Philadelphia)

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation
Setting the Stage, part 1
Martin Luther, part 2
Varieties of Protestantism, part 3
The Counter-Reformation, part 4

Albrecht Dürer Who was Albrecht Dürer?
Adam and Eve, 1504, engraving (fourth state), 25.1 x 20 cm (The Met)
Melencolia I,1514, engraving, 24 x 18.5 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Decoding art: Dürer’s Melencolia I and What is Melencolia?

Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece, c. 1510-15, Colmar, France

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1480-1505 (Prado, Madrid)

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533, oil on oak (National Gallery)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
The Tower of Babel, 1563, oil on panel (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Hunters in the Snow (Winter), 1565, oil on wood (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Global Influence
Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, 1570-1606, Andahuaylillas (Peru)

Terms to know and use
Burgundy, transubstantiation, Council of Trent, Martin Luther, 95 Theses, indulgence, iconoclasm, Flanders

Session 7: Midterm exam

Session 8: The Renaissance in Venice

The Basics
Venetian art: an introduction
Oil paint in Venice
Palazzo Ducale, begun 1340
Ca’ d’Oro, 1422-1440, Venice
Saving Venice

Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with Saint Emidius, 1486, egg and oil on canvas
(National Gallery, London)

Giovanni Bellini
St. Francis in the Desert, oil on panel, c. 1480 (Frick Collection)
San Giobbe Altarpiece, c. 1485, oil on panel (Accademia, Venice)
San Zaccaria Altarpiece, 1505, oil on wood to canvas, San Zaccaria, Venice

San Zeno Altarpiece, 1456-59, oil on panel, Basilica of San Zeno, Verona
Saint Sebastian, oil on wood panel, c. 1456-59 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
Dead Christ, tempera on canvas, c. 1480-1500 (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)

Three Philosophers, c. 1506 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
The Tempest, c. 1506-8 (Accademia, Venice)

Pastoral Concert, c. 1509, 105 x 137 cm (Louvre)
Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1516-18, 22′ 6″ high (S.M. Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice)
Venus of Urbino, 1538, oil on canvas (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)

Correggio, Jupiter and Io, 1532-33, oil on canvas (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Paolo Veronese Feast in the House of Levi, 1573, 18′3″x42′ (Accademia, Venice)
Trial transcript

Jacopo Tintoretto
The Finding of the Body of St. Mark, c. 1562-66, oil on canvas (Brera, Milan)
Last Supper, 1594, oil on canvas, 12′ x 18′ 8″ (San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice)

Andrea Palladio, Villa Rotonda (formerly Villa Capra), 1566-1590s, near Vicenza, Italy

Global Influence
Sultan Muhammad, The Court of Gayumars, c.1522 (Aga Khan Museum, Toronto)
Mimar Sinan, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul, 1561-63
Benin Plaques, c. 1530-1570, Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria (MFA, Boston)

Terms to know and use

Di sotto in sù, glazing, Grand Vizier, Inquisition, Janissaries, Shahnameh, Ducale


Session 9: The High Renaissance in Italy

The Basics
Toward the High Renaissance, an introduction
Galileo Galilei
Galileo and Renaissance art
Renaissance woman: Isabella d’Este

Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo’s letter to the Duke of Milan     
Vitruvian Man
The Virgin of the Rocks, c. 1491-1508, oil on panel (The National Gallery)
Last Supper, oil, tempera, fresco, 1495-98 (Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan)
Mona Lisa, c. 1503-05, oil on panel, 30-1/4″ x 21″ (Musée du Louvre)

Donato Bramante
Tempietto, c. 1502, San Pietro in Montorio, Rome
Saint Peter’s Basilica (Basilica Sancti Petri), begun 1506, completed 1626, Vatican

Michelangelo Buonarroti (early)
Pietà, marble, 1498-1500 (Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome)
David, marble, 1501-04 (Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence)

Marriage of the Virgin, 1504, oil on panel (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)
Madonna of the Goldfinch, 1505-6, oil on panel (Uffizi, Florence)
School of Athens, 1509-1511,fresco (Stanza della Segnatura, Papal Palace, Vatican)
Portrait of Pope Julius II, 1511, oil on poplar, 108.7 x 81 cm (National Gallery, London)     
Galatea, c. 1513, fresco, Villa Farnesina, Rome

The Protestant Reformation

Michelangelo Buonarroti (later)
Moses, 1513-15, marble, Tomb of Pope Julius II, 1505-45, S. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome
Slaves, 1513-15, marble, (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 1508-12, fresco (Vatican, Rome)
Libyan Sibyl (studies), c. 1510–11, chalk (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, 1534-1541, fresco (Vatican City, Rome)
Medici Chapel (New Sacristy), 1519-34, San Lorenzo, Florence

Global Influence
Introduction to the Mexica (Aztec)
New Spain, an introduction
The Medici collect the Americas

Terms to know and use
sfumato, Madonna of Humility, sacristy, San Lorenzo, Medici, basilica, Vitruvius
Pope Julius II, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, prophets, sibyls, Ignudi, blessed/damned


Session 10: Mannerism and Spain

The Basics
A beginner’s guide to Mannerism

Jacopo Pontormo, Entombment (or Deposition from the Cross), oil on panel, 1525-28
(Capponi Chapel, Santa Felicita, Florence)

Madonna of the Long Neck, 1530-33, (Uffizi, Florence)
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, 1523-24 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Bronzino, An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, c. 1545, oil on panel (National Gallery)

Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait, c. 1556, varnished watercolor on parchment (MFA, Boston)

Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, c. 1554, bronze (Loggia dei Lanzi,
Piazza della Signoria, Florence)

Giambologna, Abduction of a Sabine Woman, 1581-83, marble, 410 cm high (Loggia dei Lanzi,
Piazza della Signoria, Florence)

Spain in the 16th century
El Escorial, begun 1563, near Madrid, Spain

El Greco
View of Toledo, 1598-99, oil on canvas (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Burial of the Count of Orgaz, 1586–88, oil on canvas (Santo Tomé, Toledo, Spain)

Spain in the 17th century, The Baroque
Juan Sánchez Cotán, Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber, 1602, oil on canvas
(San Diego Museum of Art)

Francisco de Zurbarán, The Martyrdom of Saint Serapion, 1628, oil on canvas
(Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut)

Diego Velázquez
The Waterseller of Seville, 1618-22, oil on canvas (Apsley House, London, England)
Las Meninas, c. 1656, oil on canvas (Museo Nacional Del Prado, Madrid)
The Surrender of Breda, 1634-35, oil on canvas (Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain)

Global Influence
The Mass of St. Gregory, 1539, feathers on wood with touches of paint (Musee des Jacobins)
Murals from New Spain, San Agustín de Acolman
Inventing “America,” The Engravings of Theodore de Bry

Terms to know and use
Chapel, Deposition, Entombment, putti, Medusa, gorgan, Sabine, loggia, piazza


Session 11: Museum field trip

Session 12: Baroque Art in Italy and Flanders

The Basics
Baroque art, and introduction
How to recognize Baroque art
Francis Bacon and the Scientific Revolution

Baroque art in Italy
Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Pluto and Proserpina, 1621-22, marble (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
David, 1623, marble (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25, marble (Galleria Borghese, Rome)
Baldacchino, 1624-33, 100′ high, gilded bronze (Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican)
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1647-52 (Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome)
St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro), Vatican City, Rome, 1656-67

Calling of St. Matthew, oil on canvas, c. 1599-1600 (Contarelli Chapel,
San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome)
The Conversion of St. Paul (Saul), c. 1601, oil on canvas, 230 x 175 cm
(Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome)
Crucifixion of St. Peter, 1601, oil on canvas (Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome)

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1620-21, oil on canvas (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

Fra Andrea Pozzo, Glorification of Saint Ignatius, Sant’Ignazio, Rome, 1691-94, fresco

Baroque in Flanders
Peter Paul Rubens
Elevation of the Cross, 1610, oil on wood (Antwerp Cathedral)
Presentation of the Portrait of Marie de’ Medici, c. 1622-1625, oil on canvas (Louvre)
The Consequences of War, 1638-39, oil on canvas (Palazzo Pitti, Florence)

Anthony van Dyck, Samson and Delilah, c. 1618-20, oil on canvas, 152.3 x 232 cm
(Dulwich Picture Gallery, London)

Global Influence
Brooklyn Biombo, c. 1697-1701, oil on wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl (Brooklyn Museum)
Ryōanji, late 16th – 17th century, Kyoto, Japan
Mission Church of San Esteban del Rey, 1629, Acoma Pueblo (New Mexico)
Lidded Saltcellar, Sierra Leone (Sapi-Portuguese), 15th-16th century, ivory (The Met)

Terms to know and use
di sotto in sù and quadrature, chiaroscuro, tenebrism, biombo, mission, Jesuit


Session 13: Baroque art in the Dutch Republic, France, and England

Frans Hals
Singing Boy with Flute, c. 1623, oil on canvas (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
The Women Regents, c. 1664, oil on canvas (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem)

Rembrandt van Rijn
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas (Mauritshuis, Den Haag)
The Night Watch, 1642, oil on canvas (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, 1653, oil on canvas (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Self-Portrait, 1659, oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art)

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Interior of Saint Bavo, Haarlem, 1631, oil on panel (Philadelphia)

Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, c. 1633, oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Willem Kalf, Still Life with Silver Ewer and a Porcelain Bowl, 1660, oil on canvas (Rijksmuseum)

Johannes Vermeer
Woman Holding a Balance, 1664, oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, oil on canvas (Mauritshuis, The Hague)
The Art of Painting, 1666-69, oil on canvas (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Jacob van Ruisdael, View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds, c. 1670–75, oil on canvas
(Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Rachel Ruysch
Fruit and Insects, 1711, oil on wood (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
Flower Still Life, c. 1726, oil on canvas (Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio)

Baroque art in France
Nicolas Poussin
Et in Arcadia Ego, 1637-38, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
Landscape with Saint John on Patmos, 1640, oil on canvas (Art Institute of Chicago)

Hyacinthe Rigaud, Louis XIV, 1701, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Louis le Vau, André le Nôtre, and Charles le Brun, Château de Versailles, 1664-1710

Claude Perrault, East façade of the Louvre, 1674

Baroque in England
Inigo Jones, The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, 1619–22
Christopher Wren, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, begun 1675, completed 1711, London

Global Influence
Biombo, Conquest/Mexico City, New Spain, late 17th century (Museo Franz Mayer, Mexico City)
Jerónimo de Balbás, Altar of the Kings, 1718-37, Met. Cathedral of the Assumption, Mexico City

Terms to know and use
genre painting, painterly, Calvin, regent, Haarlem, camera obscura


Session 14: Rococo and Neoclassicism

The Basics
The Age of Enlightenment, an introduction
A beginner’s guide to Rococo
Neoclassicism, an introduction

Antoine Watteau, Pilgrimage to Cythera, 1717, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun
Self-Portrait, 1790, oil on canvas (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
Self-Portrait with her Daughter, Julie, 1789, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
The Swing, 1767, oil on canvas (Wallace Collection, London)
The Progress of Love: The Meeting, 1771-73, oil on canvas (The Frick Collection)

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Village Bride, 1761, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Neoclassicism in France
Jacques-Louis David
Oath of the Horatii, 1784, oil on canvas, 1785 (Musée du Louvre)
The Death of Marat, 1793, oil on canvas (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium)
Emperor Napoleon in his Study at the Tuileries, 1812, oil canvas (National Gallery of Art)

Horses of San Marco, copper alloy (Basilica of San Marco, Venice)

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait of Madeleine, 1800, oil on canvas (Musée du Louvre)

William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode, c. 1743, six paintings, oil on canvas (National Gallery)

Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, c. 1763-65, oil on canvas
(Derby Museums and Art Gallery)

Angelica Kauffmann, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as Her Treasures,
c. 1785, oil on canvas, (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

Global Influence
Covered sugar bowl, c. 1745, silver (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art)
Yuanming Yuan (Qing Dynasty), late 18th century, Beijing
Anishinaabe outfit, c. 1790, Fort Michilimackinac (Smithsonian Institution)

Terms to know and use: Reign of Terror, absolute monarchy, divine right of kings, Enlightenment, Ancien Regime, aristocracy, Jacobin, empiricism, Robespierre


Session 15: Final exam