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The Art of 15th Century Italy (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course explores the development of art in Italy in a period that laid the foundations for the Renaissance. Using a wide variety of material this course will assess the influences of 15th century Italian art, and will place it in the context of contemporary developments in literature, philosophy and science.

Course Details

Content of Course

1. Forerunners: Giotto, whom Vasari considered to have ‘rescued and restored art’, and Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Their masterpiece in the Cathedral of Pisa anticipated the shape of things to come.

2. Siena: favouring the elegant grace of the International Gothic style, the artists of Siena produced some of the most beautiful works of the 15th century. Sienese artists will include the Master of the Osservanza and Il Sassetta.

3. Naples: the adoption of the Netherlandish technique of oil painting marked a pivotal development in fifteenth-century Italian art and it was almost certainly in Naples that the method was first assimilated by the Italian painter, Antonello da Messina.

4. Venice: the artists of 15th century Venice were responsible for some of the most idiosyncratic paintings of the period. Works by the Vivarini and Crivelli will be considered.

5. Venice: the monumental work of Mantegna and Carpaccio.

6. Urbino: In his ducal palace in Urbino, the condottieri, Federico da Montefeltro attracted some of the most gifted artists of the day. His court worked like a laboratory bringing together a scholarly interest in the art of antiquity and a fascination with perspective and geometry. Artists considered will include Piero della Francesca.

7. Florence: perhaps more than any other centre, the roots of Renaissance art can be traced to Florence and the work of Brunelleschi, the architect of the dome of Florence Cathedral and Masaccio, one of the first artists to employ linear perspective.

 8. Florence: part 2, artists considered will include Donatello, Ghiberti and Filippino Lippi.

9. Florence: part 3, artists considered will include Verrocchio, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio.

10. Rome: thanks to the princely patronage of Pope Sixtus IV, and the group of artists he commissioned to decorate his newly restored Sistine Chapel, the early Renaissance was established in Rome. These artists included Perugino, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the artwork which characterised  15th-century Italy;

  • Show familiarity with the artists of the time and analyse the iconographic and compositional elements of their works of art;

  • Engage critically with the historical circumstances and the extant evidence.


Core Readings


  • Richardson, Carol (ed.) Locating Renaissance Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007)

  • Schneider, Laurie, 2001. Italian Renaissance Art. London, Westview Press.

  • Welch, Evelyn, 2000. Art in Renaissance Italy. Oxford: Oxford University Press


  • Brown, Patricia Fortini, 1997. The Renaissance in Venice. London: Everyman Art Library

  • Cole, Bruce, 1987. Italian Art 1250-1550: The Relation of Renaissance Art to Life and Society. New York: Harper Row Publishers

  • Creighton, Gilbert, 1980. Italian Art 1400-1500: Sources and Documents. New Jersey: Prentice Hall

  • Hartt, Frederick, 2007. A History of Italian Renaissance Art. London: Thames and Hudson

  • Partridge, Loren, 1996. The Renaissance in Rome, 1400-1600. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

  • Syson, Luke, 2007. Renaissance Siena: Art for a City. London: London National Gallery

  • Turner, Richard A.  1997. The Renaissance in Florence: The Birth of a New Art. London, Everyman Art Library.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.