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Material Encounters in Northern Renaissance Art - HOA00078I

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Jeanne Nuechterlein
  • 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 investigates the relationships between materiality and the function and experience of artworks in northern Europe between the late fourteenth and the late sixteenth centuries.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The medium of an artwork—the matter with which it is made—can have a profound impact on how it is experienced and interpreted. This module investigates a variety of artworks made in northern Europe between the late fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, asking how their construction and design relate to their materiality, and how these factors in turn relate to how artworks were viewed and used. We will investigate themes such as the similarities and distinctions between painted and sculpted altarpieces; how viewers/readers might have interacted with single-sheet prints in comparison with images in manuscripts or books; the potential experiences of interacting with paintings, textiles or small devotional objects in a domestic context vs seeing sculpture, stained glass or metalwork in a church. We will study well-known artists and artworks as well as less familiar examples, asking why art history has sometimes privileged certain objects more than others, and how far attitudes towards them have changed in the twenty-first century.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Knowledge of varied objects made in northern Europe between the late fourteenth and sixteenth centuries and the contexts in which they were made and used

  • Understanding of how the construction and design of objects in specific materials relates to their functions

  • Ability to evaluate how viewers/users in this period could have interacted with artworks made in different media


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

  • Boivin, Katherine M. Riemenschneider in Rothenburg: Sacred Space and Civic Identity in the Late Medieval City. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2021.
  • Campbell, Thomas. Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.
  • Jacobs, Lynn F. “The Inverted ‘T’-Shape in Early Netherlandish Altarpieces: Studies in the Relation Between Painting and Sculpture.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 54, no. 1 (1991): 33-65.
  • Goldstein, Claudia. “Artifacts of Domestic Life: Bruegel's Paintings in the Flemish Home.” Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek / Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 51 (2000): 172-93.
  • KIK-IRPA. “Closer to Van Eyck.”
  • Nash, Susie. Northern Renaissance Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Renkin, Claire. “Making the Sacred Palpable: How Material Objects Enhanced Lay Devotional Practices in Late Medieval Europe.” In Tangible Religion: Materiality of Domestic Cult Practices From Antiquity to Early Modern Era, edited by Ria Berg, Antonella Coralini, Anu Kaisa Koponen, and Reima Välimäki, 223-37. Rome: Institutum Romanum Finlandiae, 2021.
  • Schmidt, Suzanne Karr. “Memento Mori: The Deadly Art of Interaction.” In Push Me, Pull You: Imaginative, Emotional, Physical, and Spatial Interaction in Late Medieval and Renaissance Art, edited by Sarah Blick and Laura Deborah Gelfand, vol. 2, 261–94. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
  • Van Bannekom, Joosje. “Wenzel Jamnitzer’s Centrepiece and the Goldsmith’s Secret.” The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 66, no. 1 (2018): 45-68.
  • Wehn, James. “Cultivating Designs: Early Ornamental Prints and Creative Reproduction.” In The Reception of the Printed Image in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: Multiplied and Modified, edited by Grayna Jurkowlaniec and Magdalena Herman, 63-96. New York and London: Routledge, 2020.

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.