The Power of the Real in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Painting & Sculpture - HOA00053I

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Cordula Van Wyhe
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

The semblance of art and reality was a recurring concern for seventeenth-century artists and theorists. Consequently, art historians have long tried to grapple with, what has been variously termed, the “life-like effect”, “photographic quality”, “verisimilitude”, “illusionism” and “optical trickery” of seventeenth-century painting and sculpture.

This module will take Spanish sculpture and painting as a case study to explore the wider conceptual and methodological challenges of the power of the real.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

The semblance of art and reality was a recurring concern for seventeenth-century artists and theorists. Consequently, art historians have long tried to grapple with, what has been variously termed, the 'life-like effect', 'photographic quality', 'verisimilitude', 'illusionism' and 'optical trickery' of seventeenth-century painting and sculpture.

This module will take Spanish sculpture and painting as a case study to explore the wider conceptual and methodological challenges of the power of the real. Seventeenth-century Spain is often referred to as 'Golden Age Spain'. Despite grave challenges to Spain's power in the international arena of politics and commerce, the literary and visual arts and architecture flourished to an unprecedented degree. The artistic trends which dominated image-making in Seville at the turn of the seventeenth century are generally considered the bedrock of what scholars have termed, 'the art of immediacy', or 'naturalism in' Spain. For example, Spanish sculptors such as Pedro de Mena, Juan de Mesa and Juan Marti­nez Montanes achieved new life-like effects in their polychrome sculptures, while painters such as Francisco Zurbaran and Diego Velazquez, who both had strong links to Seville, produced several canonical pieces whose hallmark is their power of illusion.

'Realism' is always a relative term, because its meaning is informed by the practises of a specific culture. This module will engage with the important methodological problems that surround the privileged explanatory category of 'realism' for seventeenth-century painting and sculpture in Spain. We will investigate the wide variety of pictorial, thematic and conceptual strategies in close relation to contemporary texts and modern, scholarly theoretical writings.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have acquired:

  • Familiarity with major artists and artistic genres in seventeenth-century Spain.
  • An appreciation of the historical relativity of the 'real' in early modern Spanish society.
  • Knowledge of a range of methodological approaches that have been applied to the 'veristic appeal' of seventeenth-century painting and sculpture and an ability to critique those methodologies.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark Group
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Seminar oral performance: presentations and discussion
N/A 10 A
University - closed examination
The Power of the Real in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Painting & Sculpture
N/A 90 A
Essay/coursework
3,000 word Assessed Essay
N/A 90 B
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Seminar oral performance: presentations and discussion
N/A 10 B

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

In the tables given here, Group A tasks are assessed when the module is taught in the Autumn term, and Group B tasks are assessed when the module is taught in the Spring term.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark Group
University - closed examination
The Power of the Real in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Painting & Sculpture
N/A 90 A
Essay/coursework
3,000 word Assessed Essay
N/A 90 B

Module feedback

Feedback on formative assessment within one week.

Feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

  • Bray, X. (et. al.), The Sacred Made Real. Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700, ex. cat. National Gallery, London 2009.
  • Alcolea, S., Zurbarán, Barcelona 2008.
  • Webster, Susan Verdi, Art and Ritual in Golden-Age Spain, Princeton, 1998.
  • García Sanz, Ana, El Niño Jesú en el Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid, 2010.
  • Colón Mendoza, I., The Cristo yacentes of Gregorio Fernández, Farham, 2015.
  • Tiffany, Tanya, Diego Velázquez’s early paintings and the culture of seventeenth-century Seville, Pennsylvania, 2012.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.