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Interpreting Northern Renaissance Art


This module investigates the methodologies used to interpret northern European Renaissance art, focusing on the art of Germany and the Low Countries in the 15th and 16th centuries. It will address how art-historical approaches have changed from the foundations of the discipline in the 19th century to the forms of interpretation most widely used today, including such topics as attribution, formal analysis, iconography, patronage, technical analysis, gender studies and cultural history. We will examine some of the most recent work interpreting northern Renaissance art in new ways, and we will also investigate some other approaches that have not been applied to this particular field of art history. How might the northern Renaissance field benefit from ideas developed in other areas of art history, or other disciplines? Are there new kinds of questions and answers waiting to be developed?


By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the history of methodological changes in the study of northern Renaissance art
  • Evaluate the relative benefits and weaknesses of different methodological approaches to northern Renaissance artworks
  • Analyse methodologies developed in other fields of art history and/or other disciplines and experimentally apply them to northern Renaissance works

Preliminary Reading

  • Bernhard Ridderbos et al., Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception and Research (2005)
  • Joseph Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (1996)
  • Christopher S. Wood, Forgery, Replica, Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art (2008)
  • Alexander Nagel and Christopher S. Wood, Anachronic Renaissance (2010)

Module information

  • Module title
    Interpreting Northern Renaissance Art
  • Module number
  • Convenor
    Nicola Sinclair

For postgraduates