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Unit information: Self Portraiture in the Early Modern Period, 1450-1700 (Level M Lecture Response Unit) in 2016/17

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Unit name Self Portraiture in the Early Modern Period, 1450-1700 (Level M Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HARTM0034
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Alexandra Hoare
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit explores the history and significance of the phenomena of self-portraiture and autobiography among artists. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, artists inserted themselves into their work with an increasing consciousness of their status and the possibility of achieving both present and posthumous fame. Concurrent with and stimulated by the practice of biographical writing, among the most important and influential being Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists (1550, 1568) and Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography (1562), the sixteenth century also saw the rise of autonomous self-portraits, and, in the seventeenth century, the establishment of self-portraiture as a genre in its own right. The unit will also consider the autobiographical impulse of artists (encapsulated in Leonardo’s dictum ‘every painter paints himself’) in connection with broader intellectual and philosophical developments in the history of selfhood and identity.

Intended learning outcomes

1) To provide students a detailed understanding of the phenomenon of self-portraiture and autobiography among artists.

2) To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.

3) To develop students’ ability to work with primary sources relating to this field and produce a research-led essay based on such sources.

4) To develop students’ abilities to integrate primary source material into a wider art historical and historiographical analysis.

5) To develop students’ ability to learn independently within a group context.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 5000 words (100%). This will assess ILOs 2-5.

Reading and References

Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980) Martin Kemp, ‘Equal Excellences: Lomazzo and the Explanation of Individual Style in the Visual Arts’ (1987) Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (1997) John Martin, ‘Inventing Sincerity, Refashioning Prudence: The Discovery of the Individual in Renaissance Europe’ (1997)