Online Course

Deepen your knowledge and expand your horizons by registering for an online, interactive art history course taught by Elaine Ruffolo.

Upcoming class:

Art and Society in Renaissance Italy (1500 to 1564)



I will be contacting registered students before the class begins to give login instructions.

Registered students can access supplemental class information and recordings here:

The seven-week course will consist of lectures, discussions, and suggested readings. Please see class description and full syllabus below. 


Course description:
This course begins with an analysis of the historical and social background of the 16th century and the impact of patronage on art. The artistic events that most powerfully determined the history of High Renaissance art took place in the first decades of the sixteenth-century in Florence, Rome and Venice and can best be seen in the art of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. The period marked a time when some of the most refined artistic accomplishments were achieved, but it was also a period of great social upheaval. This course will examine the extraordinary intersection of the artistic genius with powerful patrons set against a backdrop of dramatic political instability and social unrest- summing up the period called the High Renaissance.  

Suggested Reading List:
Paoletti, John, and Gary Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, London: Laurence King, 2011. Purchase whatever edition you find. The reading assignments correspond to edition 2 of the text book but purchase whatever edition you find and read the subjects rather than specific pages (second edition page numbers do not always correspond to other editions). 


Week One: January 13

Leonardo the Renaissance Man

The focus is on Leonardo da Vinci, mainly his paintings but also some of his scientific and technical drawings. The class will discuss Leonardo’s personal style -- that transcendent atmosphere that seems to envelope his mysterious figures like a veil and submerges them into a unity with the surrounding nature. The class will evaluate Leonardo’s contribution to the development of the style of the High Renaissance. Topics to be considered: Florentine workshops and the Duchy of Milan. 


January 20 (no class)

Week Two: January 27

The Young Michelangelo

Trace the art of Michelangelo from his beginnings in Florence and his subsequent work in Rome. The class will evaluate Michelangelo’s overall contribution and the different aspects of his art. Looking at some of his earlier sculptures, we immediately recognize Michelangelo’s desire to animate the hard stone, to express a fusion of motion and emotion that would convey his idealistic philosophy and attitude toward Antiquity. We will cover the process of marble carving in the times of Michelangelo. Particular attention will be on the development of his distinctive style as a sculptor and how it compares with his painting style.

Topics to be considered: Political situation in Florence, sculpting technique, Julius II patronage.


Week Three: February 3

Raphael and Bramante: Competition and Synthesis 

This week is concerned with Michelangelo’s competitor in Rome, the young Raphael, the protégé of the architect Bramante -- both towering figures of the High Renaissance. The charming beauty of Raphael’s Madonnas and the gravity of the frescoes that he painted in the pope’s chambers, are among the most extraordinary accomplishments of Italian art. They will be examined with particular attention and compared to the work of Leonardo and Michelangelo. Bramante’s work as the pope’s architect, his design for San Pietro in Montorio and plans for the new St. Peter’s place him alongside Brunelleschi and Alberti as one of the greatest architects of all time.

Topics to be covered: Synthesis, Julius II patronage, revival of Rome 


Week Four: February 10

Michelangelo and the Popes

This week explores Michelangelo’s work after the Sistine Chapel ceiling: his work on the tomb of Pope Julius II and his return to Florence to work on the Medici tombs. Particular attention will be paid to the political situation in Rome and Florence under the Medici Popes: Leo X and Clement VII. Some of Michelangelo’s greatest achievements belong in this mature period of his life. Most famous is the spectacular rendition of the Last Judgment, a work whose bold departure from traditional models has redefined Renaissance art. 

Topics to be covered: Protestant Reformation, Sack of Rome, Council of Trent, Florence under the Medici


Week Five: February 17

Venice and the Art of Giorgione and Titian 

This week the class will move to Venice to explore High Renaissance art as it developed after Giovanni Bellini. His successors Giorgione and Titian have left a lasting impression with their soft poetic images of deep intensive color and feeling. The class will also examine how the unique position of Venice has influenced its history and cultural specificity and how this was left an imprint on its art.

Topics to be considered: Development of the economy of Venice, patronage in Venice 


Week Six: February 24

Medici Dukes and Mannerism

Explore the art of Florence during the reign of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and his principal artists. Mannerism, the new style that these artists promoted was a radical change to the Renaissance canon. They each pursued personal visions that were usually not in line with artistic canons of the time. This was a time of experiment and artistic freedom. Also discussed are the late years of Michelangelo when he was working on such personal projects as the Florentine and Rondanini Pietàs.  Artists discussed are Bronzino, Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino, Michelangelo, Titian. Topics to be considered: Florence as a Duchy and the stylish style

Week Seven: March 3

Review and Final exam.

Art and Society in Renaissance Italy
(1500 to 156


COST: $395 or €325 per person 

($180 discounted fee to additional household members)

WHEN: Wednesdays starting on January 13th at
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (Florence)
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm (New York)
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm (Chicago)
11:00 am - 12:30 pm (Denver)

10:00 am - 11:30 am (Los Angeles)

Should you wish to pay with Zelle, please click the button below and enter the $395 registration fee, using my email elaine.ruffolo@gmail.com