Skip to main content

Unit information: Caravaggio in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Caravaggio
Unit code HART30033
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Cervantes
Open unit status Not open




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


The seventeenth-century artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) is of interest not only as one of the most intriguing protagonists (or, perhaps, antagonists) of his age, but as a subject whose study allows an introduction to many of the most important issues of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century art history, including artistic identity, stylistic and iconographic novelty, new painting techniques and practices, influence and reception, and patronage and art collecting. This unit aims to give students the opportunity to conduct their own research and think critically about the subject of art and the theoretical procedures of art history. A great wealth of scholarship has been (and continues to be) written about Caravaggio, making him a particularly useful subject for exploring the various methodologies of art history, from biography and aesthetics to iconology, semiotics and gender study. In addition to probing Caravaggio’s significance for his own time, with the help of early source material in the form of biographies, letters, court records, and poetry, we will consider the far-reaching influence of Caravaggio on modern artists (such as Andrés Serrano, Derek Jarman, and Cindy Sherman) and his impact upon our own ideas about art and artistic identity.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: 1. a detailed and in-depth appreciation and understanding of works and reception of Caravaggio; 2. the ability to work with primary sources; 3. the ability to integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider analysis; 4. the ability to learn independently within a small-group context; 5. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general ideas; 6. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to group discussion; 7. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 8. the acquisition of advanced writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

3,500 word essay (50%) 2-hour unseen written exam (50%)

Reading and References

Keith Christiansen, “Caravaggio and “L’esempio davanti del naturale” (1986). Elizabeth Cropper, “The Petrifying Art: Marino’s Poetry and Caravaggio” (1991). Michael Fried, “Thoughts on Caravaggio” (1997). Lorenzo Pericolo, Caravaggio and Pictorial Narrative: Dislocating the Istoria in Early Modern Painting (2011). Philip Sohm, “Caravaggio’s Deaths” (2002).