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Level 7

7AATC412 The Devotional Use of Art in Christianity

THIS MODULE IS RUNNING IN 2019-20

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

Credit value: 20
Module tutor: Dr Jennifer Sliwka 
Assessment: one x 5,000-word essay (100%)

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

Teaching pattern: one two-hour class weekly over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none

NB There are limited places available on this module due to its taking place in part at the National Gallery. MA Christianity & The Arts students are guaranteed a place; however, students on other programmes interested in taking this module should also submit an alternative choice on your module registration form

This module will look closely at the ways in which different Christian environments and needs have helped to foster particular kinds of art. This will require art-historical and church-historical input; a knowledge of the history of religious ideas and devotional practices, of the aspirations of patrons as well as of popular piety, and of how all these things shaped artistic commissions and objects.

This is one of two modules in the MA in Christianity and the Arts that relate principally to paintings in the National Gallery collection. The module is 20 taught hours in 10 sessions, and will be taught in the Gallery – one hour in a seminar room and one on the Gallery floor. 

Preliminary reading

  • The Altarpiece in the Renaissance. ed. by Peter Humfrey and Martin Kemp.Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990.
  • The altar and its environment : 1150 – 1400. Justin E. A. Kroesen and Victor M. Schmidt (Eds.). Turnhout : Brepols, 2009. 
  • Italian altarpieces : 1250 – 1550. ed. by Eve Borsook and Fiorella Superbi Gioffredi. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1994.
  • Hans Belting, Likeness and presence: a history of the image before the era of art. Transl. by Edmund Jephcott Chicago : Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1994
  • Jacob Burckhardt. The altarpiece in Renaissance Italy. Ed. and transl. by Peter Humfrey, Oxford : Phaidon, 1988.
  • J. F. Hamburger, The Visual and the Visionary. Art and Female Spirituality in Late Medieval Germany, New York, 1998.
  • Peter Humfrey, The altarpiece in Renaissance Venice. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1993.
  • Lynn Jacobs, Early Netherlandish Carved Altarpiece 1380-1550: Medieval Tastes and Mass Marketing, Cambridge 1998
  • Alexander Nagel, "Altarpiece (Definition and History)." In The Dictionary of Art. London: MacMillan, 1996, I, 707-13.
  • Victor M. Schmidt, Painted piety : panel paintings for personal devotion in Tuscany, 1250-1400, Firenze : Centro Di, 2005.

Further information

Module aims

This module will teach students to look closely at the ways in which different Christian environments and needs have helped to foster particular kinds of art, and to understand how and why art has been used by Christians in the ways that it has. This will require art-historical and church-historical input; a knowledge of the history of religious ideas and devotional practices, of the aspirations of patrons as well as of popular piety, and of how all these things shaped artistic commissions and objects.

The module will introduce students to objects that include icons, altarpieces made for church buildings, and devotional images made for private use. In any one year, it will have a principal focus on one such type of image (for example, altarpieces), but this may vary from year to year. The module will seek to foster particular familiarity with key works in the National Gallery such as (for example) Cima da Conegliano’s The Incredulity of St Thomas, Dirk Bouts’ The Entombment, Carlo Crivelli’s Madonna of the Swallow and The Annunciation, with St Emidius, Gerard David’s Virgin and Child, Duccio’s The Annunciation, Giotto’s Pentecost, Jacopo di Cione’s Coronation of the Virgin, Stephan Lochner’s Saints Matthew, Catherine of Alexandria and John the Evangelist, Lorenzo Monaco’s Coronation of the Virgin, Margarito of Arezzo’s Virgin and Child Enthroned, Masaccio’s Virgin and Child, The Master of Saint Giles’ Mass of Saint Giles, Hans Memling’s The Donne Triptych, Michelangelo’s Entombment, and Raphael’s Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, the students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 7 module and in particular will be able to demonstrate:

Generic skills

  • Ability to engage sensitively and critically with primary sources (works of art as well as written theology/ aesthetic theory/art criticism);
  • Ability to access and analyse relevant secondary literature;
  • Ability to summarise and present arguments in discussion and on paper;
  • Ability to research, plan and present essays to specified deadlines.

Course specific skills

  • Critical understanding of the varying historical attitudes towards visual art in the Christian era, and the key influences that fed those attitudes;
  • Critical understanding of the varying theories of art developed by theologians and (especially in the modern period) their relationship to non-theological theories of art;
  • Knowledge of the uses made of the arts by Western churches.

 

module availability
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