Focusing on, but not limited to, architecture, this course aims at providing first-hand experience and a critical understanding of the participation of Venice in the Italian Renaissance, a movement that, from the mid-fourteenth century to the late sixteenth century, attempted to revive the culture of classical antiquity, especially that of ancient Rome.
Since the mid fifteenth century, Venice – the wondrous medieval city on water that had prospered as the commercial and cultural hinge between the Middle East and Northern Europe – witnessed a stylistic shift towards the Renaissance, albeit in its own way. What historical circumstances, values and purposes lay behind such a shift? What factors and reasons may explain the distinctive features of Venetian Renaissance architecture and art? These are the background questions of this course, which, exploring the city itself, its key places and some of its main buildings with their works of art, will enable us not only to appraise their outstanding artistic values and the works of renowned artists, but also to tackle issues such as cultural identity and hybridity, and the civic and political relevance of the visual arts.
Renaissances and the Italian Renaissance. Essentials and observations
The otherness of Venice
Building the city, the identity, and the ‘myths’ of Venice
Venice’s hubs: Rialto and Piazza San Marco
Venice’s heart: the church of San Marco
A holy city: architecture and art of Venetian churches
Architecture and art of the Venetian Scuole and Scuole Grandi. The contribution of the non-ruling classes to the civic splendour
«In our particular way». The evolving Venetian tradition of ‘great’ and ‘simple’ houses
Architecture and architectural practice in fifteenth-century Venice: I. The Lombardo workshop; II. Mauro Codussi (c. 1440-1504)
Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570). Venice as a new Rome
Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and Venice. A strained relationship.
- Awareness of the different and changing interpretations of the Western Renaissance;
- Knowledge of key issues relating to Italian Renaissance architecture and art;
- Overall knowledge of the architectural and artistic heritage of Venice, detailed knowledge of the places, buildings and artworks examined in class;
- Comprehension and use of the specific terminology of art history and architecture, including the fundamentals of the classical language of architecture;
- Familiarity with analysis and interpretation of architectural/art works;
- Familiarity with visual and written study materials relating to the architectural/artistic heritage;
- Ability to produce and present a research paper involving visual analysis, reading of scholarly publications, and critical thinking.
Course structure, activities and requirements
The course will combine indoor classes and site visits (intended as in-situ classes/seminars).
In the classroom, introductory lectures will alternate with activities, such as discussions and student presentations, which will be tailored to the number and educational backgrounds of the course participants. To encourage awareness of cultural diversity, cultural exchanges and comparative views, classes may also include short student presentations on the cultural, built and artistic heritage of the students’ own countries, following a timeline to be scheduled at the beginning of the course.
In the first half of the term, students will be required to submit critical reports/responses on assigned field works and/or readings, which will provide material for discussion. Meanwhile, they will choose a research topic relating to the course contents, which they will describe in their mid-term oral presentation and develop into their final paper.
Site visits will include: Piazza San Marco, the churches of San Zaccaria, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and San Giovanni Crisostomo, Palazzo Grimani at Santa Maria Formosa, the Scuola Grande di San Marco, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia. Further site visits and a one-day trip that will be arranged as VIU co-curricular activities will also constitute an integral part of this course.
Students are expected to be flexible about the timetable of outdoor classes, which could overlap the lunch break to allow time to reach the visit sites.
The final grade will be based on:
- Attendance, contribution to discussions and the course activities (10%)
- Weekly assignments and class presentations (30%)
- Class presentation of the research paper topic (20%)
- Final research paper: class presentation during the exam week and written version to be handed by the end of the term (40%).
Suggested orientation and reference readings
Weekly readings and bibliographies will be provided in the e-learning platform of the course. The books listed below might be of interest for orientation and reference.
Critical approaches to the Renaissance:
- Peter Burke, The European Renaissance: Centres and Peripheries, Oxford, Blackwell, 1998.
- Jack Goody, Renaissances: the One or the Many? Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Updated introduction to European Renaissance art:
- Tom Nichols, Renaissance Art: a Beginner’s Guide, London, Oneworld Publications, 2010.
The history, society and civilization of Venice in its ‘imperial age’:
- David Chambers, The Imperial Age of Venice, 1380-1580, [New York] Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970, or other editions.
- Patricia Fortini Brown, Art and Life in Renaissance Venice, New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1997.
- Loren Partridge, Art of Renaissance Venice 1400-1600, Oakland California, University of California Press, 2015.
The ‘myths’ of Venice through the visual arts:
- David Rosand, Myths of Venice. The Figuration of a State, Chapel Hill and London, The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
A guide to architecture throughout the world and throughout history, with proper terminology:
- The Grammar of Architecture, ed. by Emily Cole, Boston-New York-London, Bulfinch Press 2002.