UVA in Italy - Renaissance Art on Site

January Term
Renaissance Art on Site

Program Director

Francesca Fiorani (ff6f@virginia.edu)

Course Description

This course provides firsthand, direct knowledge of Renaissance Art through an intensive program of on-site visits in Florence and Rome over a period of two weeks. It gives students a deeper understanding of the specificity of images, that is, their materials, texture, scale, size, proportions, colors, and volumes, all elements that are almost completely lost in classroom teaching, which is entirely based on slides and digital images. It also provides students with a full sense of the importance of the original location for the understanding and interpretation of Renaissance art. Unlike modern art, Renaissance art was originally tied to a defined location and made to serve a specific purpose, be it devotional, civic or celebratory. Guided by these two notions, the course is based on extensive walks through the urban fabric of Florence and Rome and in-depth visits to masterpieces of art and architecture, such as Florence Cathedral, Michelangelo's Medici Chapels, the Medici Palace, The Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Stanze, and Roman piazzas, villas and palaces.

Credit Hours

Three (3)

Language of Instruction



By Instructor Permission

Course Prerequisite

At least one class in any of the following fields: Art History, Architectural History, European History and European Literature.


Francesca Fiorani, Associate Professor of Art History,
received her Ph.D in Renaissance Art from the University of Rome, her native city, and joined the University of Virginia in 1995. An expert on the relationship between art and science, she has published widely on Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance maps and artistic theory. The author of The Marvel of Maps. Art, Cartography and Politics in Renaissance Italy (Yale University Press, 2005), she is currently writing a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s Shadows. She teaches a great variety of graduate and undergraduate courses on Renaissance Art at the University.

Lisa Reilly, Associate Professor or Architectural History,
is interested chiefly in the history of Norman architecture in England, France and Italy, and the interrelationships of the varied cultures found in the regions under Norman control. She has published a monograph of Peterborough Cathedral with Oxford University Press in the series Clarendon Studies in the Fine Art and is currently preparing a book on Norman visual culture throughout the Romanesque world. Prof. Reilly teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Architectural History at the University with a special emphasis on medieval architecture and urban planning.


1. Attendance
Attendance to all on-site visits is mandatory and it will recorded. Students are expected to adhere closely to the schedule fixed in the syllabus. It is the students’ responsibility to be punctual (delays are not acceptable nor are changes from one group to the other). Failure to attend even a single session will drastically effect the grade for participation. In the unlikely event of illness, students should notify the professor and TA immediately, certainly before the scheduled meeting time for the day.

2. Journal Keeping
Students are expected to take individual notes and keep a journal on topics which will be assigned daily.

3. Individual visits
Students are expected to visit at least one additional site in Florence and in Rome individually, or in small groups. A list of additional sites is attached to the syllabus. Notes on the individual visits should be recorded in the journal and should adopt the analytical tools developed in the group visits.

4. Paper
Students have to write a five-page paper on a topic of their choosing, due approximately two weeks after students’ return at the University. The groundwork for the final paper is based on the knowledge acquired from the group on-site visits, the journal notes and the individual visits. The paper should show the mastery of the analytical tools developed in the course, namely the importance of the original location for the understanding and interpretation of Renaissance art and architecture.

5. Grading
Participation in class discussions: 25% (participation is judged by attendance, informed comments and awareness of the readings). Journal keeping on assigned topics 25%. Journal report on individual visits: 25%. Final paper: 25%.

6. Course Web Site
Students should visit the course web site before departure. Important materials pertaining to the course, such as the syllabus, readings, and plans of buildings are posted on the web site.

7. Required readings (available at the UVa Bookstore before departure):
• Richard Turner, Renaissance Florence. The Invention of a New Art, New York, 1997.
• Loren Partridge, The Renaissance in Rome, New York, 2005.
• Alison Brown, The Renaissance, London and New York, 1999.
• Penguin Dictionary of Architectural Terms, New York
• Packet of plans (on toolkit).


Francesca Fiorani
Art Department
P.O. Box 400130
Charlottesville, VA 22903


Applications are accepted on line at University of Virginia Study Abroad
(search for: Italy Art J Term).

ARTH 335Z Renaissance Art on Site - Syllabus

Fiske Kimball Fine Arts LibraryUVa Art MuseumVisual Resources Collection