University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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FA 0304 Renaissance Art (Spring 2011) Writing Enhanced

FA 0304 Renaissance Art (WE)
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
248 Biddle Hall
T-Th 3:30-4:50 p.m.
Spring 2011


Dr. Valerie S. Grash, Associate Professor of Fine Arts
Office: 230B Biddle Hall
Phone: 269-7164                                                       
Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2:00 p.m.; and by appointment.



In this course, we will examine the art and architecture created in Italy and in Northern Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries by addressing certain essential questions:

  1. What is the meaning of the term "Renaissance"?
  2. What were the major cities and cultural centers where art and learning flourished?
  3. What societal conditions existed that affected the production of art?
  4. Who were the major artists and how did they create their works?
  5. Who were the major art patrons and what were their motives for commissioning art?

We will approach this task by focusing on significant works of art and architecture as examples of greater societal issues and artistic concerns of the era. We will study historical events, as well as pertinent literary and philosophical sources, in order to understand better the individual work of particular artists. At the conclusion of this course, you should:

  1. Possess a strong understanding of various Renaissance cultural centers, both in Italy and northern Europe.
  2. Recognize the styles and major works of the Renaissance masters.
  3. Have detailed knowledge of a specific work of art, acquired through independent research.


Required textbooks:
  • Evelyn Welch, Art in Renaissance Italy 1350-1500 (Oxford University Press, 2000) ISBN 978-0-19-284279-4
  • Susie Nash, Northern Renaissance Art (Oxford University Press, 2008) ISBN 978-0-19-284269-5

Course Web Site:

Additional textual and visual materials for this course (including monuments and terms covered in lecture); original documents and required readings; your grades; and pertinent announcements concerning class meetings and examinations are found at:

Notice Regarding Course Changes:

I reserve the right to modify the timing, order and content of the course schedule. It is your responsibility to attend class and be aware of any changes. Check with the course web site regarding any class cancellations should they become necessary due to adverse weather conditions or other situations.


Course Policies

Please carefully read the following-they are policies that I steadfastly maintain in this course.

Faculty Statement:

My role is to facilitate learning through lecture and clarification of specific points through questioning and discussion, whether in the classroom, during office hours or via electronic correspondence. It is your responsibility to attend class, take accurate notes and approach me with any questions and issues for clarification in a timely manner.


While there is no attendance policy for this course, be forewarned that what you will be tested on is discussed thoroughly in class. Even with the textbooks, nothing replaces viewing the images projected on screen. Therefore, regular attendance is necessary to succeed in this course. In addition, as classroom discussion is expected, poor attendance will adversely affect you if it comes down to a borderline decision on your final grade.

Notes and Note Taking:

Under no circumstances do I provide notes for missed classes. It is your responsibility, if you miss a class, to acquire the lecture notes from a classmate. Class assignments and announcements are also available on the course website. You may tape-record lectures as long as you do not disturb others in the class.

Makeup Exams:

I give make-up exams only in cases with legitimate, documented reasons (death in the family, personal hospitalization, required fieldtrips, etc.). In such cases, inform me in advance and provide written confirmation of your absence. Do not assume every absence is excused or warrants special consideration. The alternative make-up exam (all essay questions) must be taken within one week of the scheduled test; only one makeup exam per student will be permitted. No one can make-up the final exam, which must be taken at the scheduled time.

Late Assignments:

No extensions are granted for class assignments. Due dates are clearly noted on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. You should start each assignment in a timely manner and even complete assignments early. Illness or any other excuse has no bearing on the fact that your work was not turned in on time. Any assignment not turned in by the due date will not be graded, thus earning 0 points for the work. No exceptions are permitted so do not ask!

Cell Phones:

Be certain your cell phone is turned OFF, as it is both annoying and disruptive to the entire class when it rings. Anyone sending or receiving text messages will be asked to leave-this course deserves your full attention. If you can't do that, drop the class immediately.

Academic Integrity:

Please read carefully the Academic Integrity Guidelines in your student handbook. They will be followed to the letter in this course. There is ZERO tolerance for cheating or plagiarism. Any time that you use another person's words or thoughts as your own without giving them proper credit is plagiarism, including copying and pasting from the Internet. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an automatic "F" (0 points) for that assignment, and steps will be taken, according to the Academic Integrity Guidelines, to receive an "F" for the course and for action leading to expulsion from the university. I will not permit re-writing any suspected plagiarized assignment.


If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Health & Wellness (OHW), G-10 Student Union Building, (814) 269-7119 to schedule an appointment as early as possible in the term.  OHW will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Grading and Course Requirements


Overall, you can earn 500 points during the semester. On this scale:

500-490 (A+)                          489-465 (A)                            464-450 (A-)

449-440 (B+)                          439-415 (B)                             414-400 (B-)

399-390 (C+)                          389-365 (C)                            364-350 (C-)

349-300 (D)                            299 and below (F)


Your grade will be determined in the following manner:

Examinations (360 points):

There will be three exams during the semester (February 10, March 22, and April 21), each worth 120 points. The format will consist of 30 multiple choice questions (3 points each), and 3 essay questions (10 points each) drawn from class notes and readings. Each exam will cover only the material since the previous exam, so the third (and final exam) will not be comprehensive.

Term Paper (140 points total):

The term paper will actually be a compilation of individual writing assignments that utilize three distinct types of art historical approaches-formal analysis, iconographical study and contextual (biographical and sociological) analysis. Thus, the final paper will contain essays analyzing the aesthetic qualities, content, and meaning of a single Renaissance painting-selected by the student in consultation with the instructor-as well as an exploration of the work within the artist's life and within the larger societal framework of the period in which it was created.

Each essay will vary in length, from 2-5 typewritten, double-spaced 12-point font pages; however, the three essays together should result in a finished paper that is 10-12 pages-MINIMUM. Please note: final papers that do not meet this criteria will be severely docked in terms of points awarded, or flat-out refused.

To facilitate this task, the first part of the paper-a formal analysis essay (30 points)-must be submitted on February 24. The second part, consisting of an essay identifying and interpreting of the work's symbols and content-otherwise known as iconography (30 points), must be submitted on March 24. Both the first and second essays will be returned to you with comments, and should be revised for final submission along with the third essay-which contextually places the work both into the artist's oeuvre (life's work) and into Renaissance society specifically-due on April 19. This final paper (which is actually all three essays put together) is worth 80 points.

Remember, each essay must be properly annotated with research sources, and include a comprehensive bibliography of articles and books consulted. Internet sources are not acceptable for very legitimate reasons. Further directions and requirements will be posted on the CourseWeb site under "Assignments."

Course Schedule

January 6      Course Introduction

January 11    Trecento Siena and Florence

January 13    Quattrocento Florence: Humanism and the Rebirth of Classical Antiquity

January 18    Conceptualizing and Developing Linear Perspective     

January 20    Religious Painting in Quattrocento Florence     

January 25    Honorific and Symbolic Images in the Early Renaissance         

January 27    The Medici: Civic and Private Patronage in Florence  

February 1    Urbino under Federico da Montefeltro  

February 3    Ludovico Sforza's Milan and Leonardo da Vinci

February 8    The Gonzagas of Mantua and Other Italian Courts

February 10  Exam I

February 15  Defining the Renaissance in Northern Europe

February 17  Realism in Northern Religious Painting

February 22  Realism (con't)              

February 24  Fantastic Imagery of Hieronymus Bosch   * Formal Analysis Essay Due (Part I)

March 1        Visualizing Morality in Proverbs and Fables      

March 3        Albrecht Durer and the Power of Printmaking in the Renaissance         

March 8        No Class-Spring Recess

March 10      No Class-Spring Recess

March 15      German Court Painters                           

March 17      Hans Holbein and Portrait Painting in the North

March 22      Exam II

March 24      Rome under Pope Julius II   * Iconographical Essay Due (Part II)

March 29      Michelangelo                             

March 31      Michelangelo     

April 5          Mannerism                                             

April 7          Venice: Art at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean                               

April 12        Giorgione and Titian                              

April 14        Tintoretto and Veronese                      

April 19        Andrea Palladio and Mannerist Architecture   * Final Paper Due                     

April 21        Exam III

Last Reviewed: January 4, 2005