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ARTHIST 2I03 Renaissance Art

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Devin Therien


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 416

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23668

Office Hours: Tuesday (9:30-11:30 am), Thursday (9:30-10:30), & Friday (9:30 am-12:00 pm), or by Skype appointment

Course Objectives:

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Renaissance Art examines the artists and themes that determined the trajectory of painting, sculpture and architecture during the period 1400 to 1580. The development of perspective, monumental free-standing sculpture, narrative painting, and fresco decoration will be explored by studying the works of such artists as Donatello, Jan Van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Titian. The course also investigates how the invention of the printing press and engraving played a pivotal role in disseminating the new art and ideas throughout Europe. Beginning in early Renaissance Florence, the course charts the development of the arts throughout Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands by considering the social and cultural forces that helped shape the environments in which artists worked.



Course Objectives:

By the end of this course students should be able to,

• define, describe and analyse key artists, art works, and themes in the history of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European Art and Culture

• demonstrate critical reading skills, particularly in the area of critically-evaluating historical and modern interpretations and examinations of Renaissance art and artists.

• apply historical research and writing skills introduced in class.

• demonstrate verbal and written communication skills through regular discussions and papers.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Stephen J. Campbell & Michael Cole, Italian Renaissance Art, Thames & Hudson: 2011.


Jeffrey Chipps Smith, The Northern Renaissance, Phaidon: 2004.

Method of Assessment:

Course Evaluation: Participation, 10%; 3 Pop Up Monday Quizzes, 5% each (15% of final grade); 2 Meetings with the Professor, 5 %; Take Home Mid-Term, 20%; Term Essay, 20 %; Final Exam, 30 %


Participation 10%: Students are expected to attend every class and be prepared to discuss the assigned weekly readings and other subjects that are raised during lecture. Students must participate regularly and be prepared to openly answer questions about course and textbook material to achieve a good grade.


3 Pop Up Monday Quizzes 5% (each): Each quiz will be a 20-minute written analysis of a work of art that has been discussed at length in the preceding class and/or weeks. Students must identify the artist and work and then discuss succinctly 2 important points about the work of art in no more than 8 sentences.


Meetings with Professor 5%: Meeting with the Professor for feedback and research assistance is required at least twice in the semester. Students must attend these meetings and be prepared to answer questions regarding their study methods, the state of their research, and grades. One meeting must occur before the mid-term and again after the mid-term essays have been returned. The professor reserves the right to request additional meetings if necessary.


Mid-Term Take Home Exam 20%: A fully-researched and edited 500-word introduction to your Term Essay examining one of the options below. (See below for full instructions on all written assignments).


Term Essay 20%: Students will submit a succinctly-written 1800-word essay based on one of the following works using only primary sources (i.e. Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists and The Holy Bible) and modern scholarly literature (post-1920):


Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes, Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve, or Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine.



Alternatively, students may select one of the below works by another artist. This option must be presented in the form of a written and oral statement, which will then be considered for approval by the Professor.


Tintoretto’s Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet (Art Gallery of Ontario) or Hans Holbein’s Portrait of a Nobleman (National Gallery of Canada)



***Important Note*** Written Work (Mid-Term and Term Essays Only):

All written work will be marked on grammar, clarity of writing, and organization, as well as content, analysis, and depth of research. All essays must include a thesis statement, outline of arguments, successive arguments that support the thesis, and a conclusion that restates the thesis and makes several concluding points about the subject discussed. All essays must be properly referenced, with footnotes and a bibliography corresponding to the Chicago Manual on Style formatting for books and journals. All essays must have a cover page and illustrations of all the images discussed. Lastly, they must be printed in Calibri Body font, double-spaced, single-sided pages, and have 1.5 inch margins. 1% will be deducted for every spelling, grammatical, and formatting error.


All research must be conducted using peer-reviewed publications, including academic journals, books, and exhibition catalogues. Students must use the authoritative catalogue raisonné (complete catalogue of works) when writing about their chosen artist (i.e. Harald Olsen, Federico Barocci).


5% will be deducted for every citation linked to non peer-reviewed research materials (i.e. Blogs, Wikipedia, Studyblue, Khan Academy or any online content that is not peer reviewed. This rule also applies to artist essays or descriptions of art works found in General Dictionaries (i.e. Encyclopedia Britannica) or Gallery or Institution webpages). The only exception is the Grove Dictionary of Art. All biblical citations must come from The Catholic Encyclopedia.


Final Examination 30% (TBD)

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

LATE AND / OR MISSED WORK: It is the responsibility of each student to attend class, tests and exams and meet the requirements of the course. Missed exams and late papers will automatically be assigned a grade of 0. Exceptions to this policy will only be made in the specific instances outlined below (see McMaster Student Absence Form), and only when met by approval from the Faculty/Program office and course instructor.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


No Classes on September 18 and November 6, 9 & 11

Sept. 5, 7 & 8 – Introduction to Renaissance Europe; Early Renaissance Florence: Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi and Masaccio


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 1, 2, 3 & 4; Chipps Smith, Introduction


Sept. 12, 13 & 14 – Perspective in Painting and Sculpture: Masaccio, Donatello, Jan van Eyck


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 4, 5 & 9


Sept. 19, 21 & 22 – Naturalism in Italy and the North: Perugino, Botticelli, Leonardo; Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Hugo van der Goes.


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 9 & 10 (pp. 275-83); Chipps Smith, Chapters 4, 5 & 6 (pp. 160-178)


Sept. 26, 28 & 29 – Architecture at the Renaissance Court: Florence, Rome, Urbino, Mantua and Milan


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 8, 15, 16 (479-86)


Oct. 3, 5 & 6 – The Printing Press: Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer and the Renaissance Print


Readings: Chipps Smith, Chapter 8


Oct. 10, 12, 13 – Mid-term break


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 11, 12 & 13


Oct. 17, 19 & 20 (Mid-Term Exam Due) Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome: Painting, Sculpture and the Rediscovery of Antiquity


Oct. 24, 26 (Offsite Assignment Days) & 27 – View the film The Agony and Ecstasy (On reserve at Mills Library or rentable on You Tube) and prepare for a discussion in class on Oct. 27th.


Oct. 31, Nov. 2 & 3 – Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach and Hans Holbein: Divergent Styles and Techniques in the North


Readings: Chipps Smith, Chapter 11


Nov. 7, 9 & 10 – Venice versus Florence and Rome: Correggio, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 14 & 17


Nov. 14, 16 & 17 – Building the Modern Cathedral: St. Peter’s Basilica and its Architects


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapters 7, 18 & 19 (pp. 575-79)


Nov. 21, 23 & 24 – Romanists: Maarten van Heemskerk and the Northerners in the South


Readings: Chipps Smith, Chapter 9


Nov. 28, 30 & Dec. 1 – Picturing Nature in the North and South


Readings: Chipps Smith, Chapter 10


Dec. 5 (Essay Due) & 7 – The Fall of Florence and Rome and the Rise of Venice and Bologna


Readings: Campbell & Cole, Chapter 19


Other Course Information:

This course uses Avenue to Learn for posting slides, communication with students, and other educational assistance.