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Semester 1

Looking at Women in Renaissance and Baroque Art (HIAR10148)


History of Art





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Visiting students must have completed at least 3 History of Art courses at grade B or above; we will only consider University/College level courses. **Please note that History of Art courses have extremely limited spaces available, and are very popular, so students cannot be guaranteed a space in any History of Art course.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the History of Art department directly to request additional spaces.

Course Summary

Renaissance art is often seen as the conceptual anchor for a conservative type of art history that focuses on great male artists and their revival of a classical past. This course uses recent research to challenge the idea, showing how old master painting can speak to current issues of sexual, gender and political identity. Focussing on different roles for women, we will investigate how visual culture promotes and challenges ideas of what it means to be female. We will look at women as archetypes of beauty, as wives, prostitutes, artists, patrons, poets and witches. We will consider medical beliefs in women's inferiority; the notional link between male creativity and reproductive processes; and how the separation of 'art' from 'craft' denigrated traditional areas of women's expertise, notably textiles, to a lesser form of making.

Course Description

Most art historians recognize that the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw revolutionary changes in visual culture, from the invention of single point perspective, to the minute recording of the natural world. The traditional approach to the Renaissance is celebratory, focusing on artists and patrons, who were almost always male. However, since the 1970s, there has been a great deal of important scholarship challenging the gender bias of early modern studies. The Renaissance also saw a revolution in gender roles, including fiery debates over the 'nature of women'. This course considers how major developments in Renaissance and Baroque art were bound up with these development in women's social roles. It will look at women as artists, patrons and viewers and consider how images of women sought to promote ideal feminine behaviour in a patriarchal society. It is a broad-ranging course which will take in work by artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Dürer, Artemesia Gentilleschi, Caravaggio and Rubens. The course is intended as a bridge between the introductory work at pre-honours and the specialism of the fourth year. It will both provide a more detailed survey of the changes that took place in Renaissance and Baroque art, and also give students a grounding in gender analysis as an approach to art history. Teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lecture, discussion and student presentation in two-hour classes. These will include occasional visits to important collections of Renaissance paintings, drawings and applied arts in Edinburgh. Students will also spend approximately an hour a week discussing readings and images as part of student-led peer learning groups.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 50%, Coursework 50%, Practical Exam 0%

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