Course Title:  01:082:309  Fifteenth Century Italy: The Birth of the Renaissance

Academic Credits:  3 credits

Mode of Instruction:  Lecture

Course Prerequisites and Corequisites:  None

Core Curriculum:  None

Course Description:

Italian art and architecture of the 15th century, focusing on such masters as Masaccio, Donatello, Botticelli, and Alberti; the triumph of naturalism; Renaissance humanism and art theory.

This course introduces students to the study of the visual culture of Renaissance Italy. We’ll explore the development of Italian Renaissance art during the fifteenth century, an era of radical change in which were introduced new secular subjects like portraiture, contemporary events, birth scenes, and pagan mythology, and new artistic techniques like linear perspective and engraving (as a result of the invention of the printing press). At the same time, longstanding cultural and religious traditions continued to be honored in interpretations increasingly centered on the human world. We’ll examine diverse media, including painting, sculpture, architecture, decorative arts and works on paper. Using various art historical methods, as well as social, political and religious history, we’ll discuss various issues, including: how antiquity inspired artists and patrons to redefine modes of representation, how competition and the public display of art fostered innovation, how the role of the artist was transformed in this period, and how mercantile connections with the Muslim world, the Americas, and Northern Europe influenced Italian artistic culture.

Learning Goals:

The primary goal of the course is to teach how to analyze visual information so that students can read and interpret works of art and differentiate among them. A secondary objective is to demonstrate how the visual language of painting, sculpture, prints, and architecture conveys religious, social, and political messages about the society in which it was created and to learn how to decipher them. Thirdly, this course aims to teach how to express these perceptions in discussions and in papers.

Required and Recommended Course Materials:

Loren Partridge, Art of Renaissance Florence, 1400-1600, Berkeley: U. of CA Press, 2009, paperback (ISBN 9780520257740) is available at the Rutgers University (Barnes and Noble) Bookstore, Ferren Mall, and at online sites like Amazon. Follow along in Partridge the material covered in each class. An outline and illustrations of the works of art for every class, directions for all assignments, and copies of the syllabus and readings can be found on the class SAKAI site


There will be a 2- page visual analysis on a work of art of the student’s choice from the Metropolitan Museum, an hourly exam, a 5-page research paper on the chosen object (developed from a revision and expansion of the essay), and a final. Grading will be based on these assignments and on contributions to class discussion (hourly @25 points; essay@ 10 point; research paper @25 points; class participation@10 points, and final @30 points).


Attendance is required. If you expect to miss one or two classes, please use the University absence reporting website to indicate the date and reason for your absence. An email is automatically sent to me. There will be a class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to review earlier art, to study in person objects relevant to the class, and to choose objects for analysis and research. Make-ups for the hourly exam and the final are granted only with a doctor’s excuse. Late assignments will be lowered a grade for each day they are late.


Professor Sarah Blake McHam, SYLLABUS

Disclaimer:  These course descriptions/synopses pages have been provided as samples and the information should not be considered accurate or current.  For actual course information, refer to the course site hosted by a Rutgers Learning Management System (Sakai, Canvas, etc.) as of first day of class.