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All That Glitters: Adornment & the Precious across body, dress, architecture - HOA00096M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Helen Hills
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module investigates adornment, preciousness and value in art and architecture, especially in relation to baroque art and architecture, but its chronological engagement extends from Ancient Egypt to contemporary.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

The module undertakes a critical examination of the discursive formation of decoration as subordinate to structure in architectural and philosophical discourse. It investigates adornment in relation to architecture, dress, and body. And it is designed to engage students with serious critical study of  the so-called ‘decorative arts’.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content:

  • critical knowledge of the discursive formation of decoration/ adornment as subsidiary or ‘supplemental’ across architectural and art theory
  • exploration of the gendering of adornment
  • critical knowledge of various systems of adornment and their cultural work
  • a critical knowledge of the history of the term ‘decoration’ in art history including theoretical debates
  • a critical ability to consider specific case studies of art and architecture in relation to these debates

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

  • ability to read and think critically and against the grain
  • ability to challenge common sense approaches drawing on evidence and argument
  • ability to critically relate visual art to text, both empirical work and theoretical
  • ability to analyse decoration in diverse and critically engaged ways


Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

We aim to distribute an agreed mark and written comments on summative assessment to students 20 working days following submission.

Indicative reading

  • LB Alberti, On The Art of Building (1450s)
  • Alina Payne (ed), Adornment (2012)
  • M Wigley, ‘Untitled. The Housing of Architecture’ in B Colomina (ed) Sexuality and Space
  • Alexander Nagel and Lorenzo Pericolo (eds), Subject as Aporia in Early Modern Art, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010
  • Katie Scott, ‘Framing Ambition: The Interior Politics of Mme de Pompadour’, Art History, Vol.28 n.2 April 2005, 248-290
  • Chandra Muckerji, ‘Material Practices of Domination and Techniques of western Power’, Theory & Society, 31, 2002, 1-31.
  • Treve Rosoman, London Wallpapers: their manufacture and use 1690-1840, Swindon: English Heritage 2009
  • The Smithsonian, Rococo: The Continuing Curve 1730-2008, Washington DC, 2009
  • [The Getty Collection], French Furniture and Gilt Bronzes Baroque and Regence: Catalogue of the Getty Collection, The Getty Foundation: Los Angeles, c.2009
  • Deborah Cherry & Katie Scott (eds), Between Luxury and Everyday, [Art History journal special issue]

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students