Art historians frequently rely on terms denoting historical periods (such as ‘the Renaissance’ or ‘Enlightenment’) or styles (e.g. ‘Classicism,’ ‘Realism’) as a way of interpreting the history of artistic practices. Some terms are employed to describe both a period and a style (such as ‘Gothic,’ or ‘Baroque’). These concepts have proven to be hugely influential in shaping the understanding of art, and a critical understanding of how they are used is a vital part of art historical knowledge.
This module considers the concept of the Renaissance. Examining a range of works of art as well as textual sources, it explores some of the defining practices of the Renaissance, such as: the re-definition of past history, the revival of the antique, the notion of stylistic ‘improvement’, new typologies and uses of art, and the later mythologizing of ‘Renaissance’ art and achievement. As an exploration of the Renaissance as an art historical concept, the module also considers more recent debates within art history over the meaning and use of the term.