Skip to main content

Unit information: Early Italian Art in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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 Early Italian Art
Unit code HART20009
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Williamson
Open unit status Not open




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


The focus of this unit will be on the art produced by painters from the city-republics of Central Italy in the fourteenth century (principally Siena, Florence and San Gimignano). This is often seen as a 'Golden Age' of Italian painting, although what makes that era 'Golden' is sometimes thought to be wholly or mainly Florentine painting, with a particular focus on Giotto. This unit will look in detail at Sienese painting alongside Florentine painting. It will look also at painting done by Central Italian artists in other areas of Italy such as Padua, in the north of Italy, and Naples in the South, and at the papal court in Avignon. The work of Giotto, Duccio, Simone Martini, Ambrogio Lorenzetti and PietroLorenzetti will all be considered. A particular focus will be on considering works of art in their religious, political and social contexts, and issues such as viewership, function and reception will be considered as much as patronage and production.

We will look at this work in a variety of thematic contexts. These may include:

  • the relationship between different artistic centres (including Florence, Siena, and other centres such as Assisi, Naples, Rome and Venice);
  • relationships between painting and other media;
  • the effects of patronage and politics;
  • historical, social, religious and political contexts for art in the period;
  • relationships between politics and religion;
  • identity of various groups (including civic, religious, mendicant) and individuals, and the way in which identity is expressed through visual and material culture;
  • function and viewership;
  • the effects of periodisation in the study of art of this period.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of medieval and early Renaissance Italian Art;
  2. select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues through coherent argument;
  3. identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint;
  4. demonstrate writing and research skills appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching details

1 x 2hr seminars

1 x 1hr workshop weekly

Assessment Details

One 3000-word summative essay (75%) [ILO 1-4]

one 1-hour exam (25%) [ILOs 1, 2]

Reading and References

Diana Norman, Siena and the Virgin. Art and politics in a late medieval city-state (New Haven, 1999)

Joanna Cannon and Beth Williamson (eds.), Art, Politics and Civic Religion in Central Italy, 1261–c. 1352 (Aldershot, 2000)

Hayden Maginnis, The World of the Early Sienese Painter (University Park, PA, 2001)

Judith B. Steinhoff, Sienese Painting after the Black Death (Cambridge, 2006)

Jill Dunkerton (et al.), Giotto to Durer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery (London, 1991)

Dillian Gordon, The Italian Paintings Before 1400 (London, National Gallery, 2011)