What is the course about?
What do all the strange signs and symbols in the paintings mean, and what is this fascination with Greek mythology all about? If it all seems impenetrable to you, and you like to find out what paintings really mean, this is the course for you. It will give you the tools to crack the hidden codes behind paintings in any art gallery, and indentify the seemingly mysterious figures in great works of art. This course aims to look at the stories which are often re-told in secular and religious Italian Renaissance painting around, 1400-1600. Most often the stories came from antique literary sources which had survived through the middle ages and were the preserve of the rich and cultured.
What will we cover?
In order to unravel the pictorial content of paintings produced during the Italian Renaissance, the viewer needs to have some working knowledge of mythology. We will recognise the stories by interpreting signs and symbols, also known as the iconography and iconology, as well as recognising ‘types’ in the paining. Why were these subjects so popular? Were paintings merely illustrations of the text or did they carry some deeper meaning? How did artists such as Botticelli, Pintoricchio, Titian and Tintoretto approach these subjects? From mythology to religious art, all will be revealed.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- State the major motivations of the patrons who commissioned the artists
- Relate in terms of chronology, the span of the period
- Identify different signs and symbols in paintings
- Differentiate between Gods, Goddesses and personifications
- Identify Gods, Goddesses and personification by their attributes
- Participate in discussions about a single painting from an iconographical point of view.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course and does not assume any previous study or reading, but you will need a good grasp of English to keep up. You will gain more from the course if you are able and willing to do some supplementary reading. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, an open mind and a willingness to listen to and think about views with which you do not always agree are more important than specific levels of skills.
You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will be classroom-based and will be taught in a seminar format, with the use of slides and handouts. There will also be a museum visit. Making your own further museum visits, and reading outside the course, will greatly enhance your experience.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Limited book purchase recommended but optional; a bibliography will be provided.
Please note we are unable to guarantee stools in the galleries that we visit so you might have to stand and to walk between objects.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
You might also be interested in:
VB131 - Italian Renaissance drawing: design, form and function
VB427 - The rise and fall of the Italian Renaissance.
General information and advice on courses at Build is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details