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Art in Renaissance Florence: Materials, Making, Agency - HOA00077I

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jessica Richardson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module focusses on the creation and ‘consumption’ of the arts in Renaissance Florence (c.1350–1520). Particular attention will be devoted to the making of art (materials, new techniques, and the role of artists), the circulation of art and artefacts from within and beyond the Italian peninsula, and the crucial role of art for patrons and its audiences.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to provide students with a solid understanding of the arts of Renaissance Florence (c.1350–1520). We will consider the making of art, its agency and its audiences, exploring the significance of materials, the deployment of new techniques and technologies, and the role of the artist. Equal attention will be devoted to art’s ‘consumers’, those who commissioned and acquired it and those who viewed and interacted with it. Special emphasis will be placed on the diverse settings for the arts of the period, including public squares, streets, governmental buildings, elite palaces, private chapels, churches and charitable institutions. We will question how art could take on multi-meanings in different environments and to different people, and how and why these could change over time.

Combining in-depth visual analysis with primary texts, we will probe period definitions of ‘art’ and ideas of preciousness, splendour and magnificence, as well as the ‘taste’ and networks for art and artefacts from throughout and beyond the Italian peninsula. Through study of the works by the period’s celebrated painters, sculptors, metalworkers and ceramicists—such as Andrea Verrocchio, the Della Robbia family, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Masaccio and Michelangelo—alongside lesser-known art and artefacts, we will explore themes such as serial reproduction, the interaction between media and the impact of arts from afar, such as Chinese textiles and Islamic metalwork. Issues to be addressed in relation to the arts of the period include mobility and exchange, charity, gender, miraculous images, and collecting.

Students will consider a wide range of art and artefacts from the period, in a variety of perspectives, engaging with the broader historiographical debates on the art of the Italian Renaissance. The module seeks to hone students’ critical and analytical skills and sharpen their ability to place object-based research at the centre of their study.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • A familiarity with a broad range of art and artefacts in Renaissance Florence, and a keen awareness of the impact of art and artefacts from within and beyond the Italian peninsula.

  • An ability to analyse the works in relation to their historical, social and political contexts, and to understand how these shifted across time.

  • An understanding of how technical processes and materials involved in the making of artworks contributed to the meanings.


Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Alberti, Leon Battista. On Painting (De pictura, 1435). Translated by Cecil Grayson. London: Penguin, 2004.
  • Baldassarri, Stefano Ugo, and Arielle Saiber, eds. Images of Quattrocento Florence: Selected Writings in Literature, History, and Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.
  • Cennini, Cennino. The Craftsman's Handbook: the Italian "Il libro dell'arte". Translated by Daniel Thompson. New York: Dover Pubications, 1960.
  • Baxandall, Michael. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Dunkerton, Jill, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon and Nicholas Penny. Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery, London. New Haven: National Gallery Publications, 1991.
  • Holmes, Megan. The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
  • Monas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300–1550. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.
  • Solum, Stefanie. Women, Patronage and Salvation in Renaissance Florence. London: Routledge, 2017.
  • Terry-Fritsch, Allie. Somaesthetic Experience and the Viewer in Medicean Florence: Renaissance Art and Political Persuasion, 1459–1580, 53–113. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020.
  • Tinagli, Paola. Women in Italian Renaissance Art: Gender, Representation, Identity. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.
  • Trexler, Richard. Public Life in Renaissance Florence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019.

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.