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Level 5

5AAH1032 Art in European Society 1500-1700

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Anne Goldgar 
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500 word formative essay, 1 x 3,000 word essay (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essays (100%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

This course will introduce students to the art of early modern Europe within its social and cultural context. It is not strictly a course on art history, but instead on the ways art interacted with social and cultural forces. The module will consider the ways artists promoted their own role in society, the way art was used by the Catholic church as a way of promoting its message and the integral role objects played in Catholicism; how art became a battlefield during the Reformation and afterwards; what role art played in the growth of the power of the state; how economic growth affected the production of art; the fashion for collecting and the way this affected status; and the interaction of art and nature in the field of collecting. The module will cover all of Europe, but in different sessions the discussion will focus on a variety of geographical locations. 

This module intends for students to understand the circumstances in which art was created, commissioned, and collected in Europe during 1500-1800. Although it is not an art history module, it will consider the role art played in society by examining the uses of art in religion, in loci of power such as courts, aristocratic homes, and institutions, in the formation of status, and in the understanding of science and the environment. 

Provisional teaching pattern

  1. The Rise of the Artist
  2. Artists’ Institutions and Milieux
  3. Art and Catholicism
  4. Art and the Reformation
  5. Art and Power
  6. The Art Market
  7. Connoisseurship and Taste
  8. Collecting
  9. Art and the Masses
  10. Art and Empiricism

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.


Key textbooks would include background texts on early modern European history, such as Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, and on art history, Anne Sutherland Harris, Seventeenth-Century Art and Architecture, and Sylvan Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art. 



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