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Online Course

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

Upcoming 7-week course begins on Wednesday, January 17th:

Titans of the Italian Renaissance



Please register with an email address you can check.

You will receive an informational email from closer to the first class. If you have not received an email by January 1st, please let us know.

Registered students can access supplemental class information and recordings here:

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Course description:

This course is conceived as a focused study of the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bramante, and Raphael, the men whose careers largely defined the concept of Western artistic genius. We will begin with an analysis of the historical and social background of the 16th century and the impact of patronage on art and the artistic events that most powerfully determined the history of High Renaissance art. 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.  

Texts for the class 

Text for the class is Paoletti, John, and Gary Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, London: Laurence King, 2011 edition 4. The reading assignments below correspond to edition 4 of the textbook. If you are using another edition, let me know and we will try our best to find the page numbers specific to your edition. 


Schedule and Reading Assignments

Week 1
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 period, workshops, and the Duchy of Milan. 

Reading assignment 
Paoletti/Radke Chapter 15, pages 362-374 (Sforza of Milan).

Week 2
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.

Reading assignment

Paoletti/Radke: Chapter 16, pages 384-394 (Florence: The Renewed Republic)

Week 3
Guest Lecturer Professor Frank Dabell on Raphael 

Week 4
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 
Reading assignment

Paoletti/Radke: Chapter 17, pages 396-421 (Julius II, Leo X, and Clement VII)

Week 5
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

Reading assignment
Paoletti/Radke: Chapter 18, pages 424-436 (Mannerism and the Medici)


Week 6
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 experimentation 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.  The artists discussed are Andrea del Sarto, Bronzino, Pontormo, and Giulio Romano. Topics to be considered: Florence as a Duchy and the stylish style.
Reading assignment: Paoletti/Radke: Chapter 20, 437-457 (Mannerism and the Medici) 

Reading assignment

Paoletti/Radke: 517-529 (Florence under Cosimo I)

Week 7
Review and Final exam (not graded).


Titans of the Italian Renaissance


COST: $395 or €325 per person 

($180 discounted fee to additional household members)

WHEN: Seven week course on Wednesdays starting on January 17th at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm in Florence (1:00 to 2:30 pm in New York, 12:00 to 1:30 pm in Chicago, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm in Denver and 10:00 to 11:30 am in Los Angeles).


If you miss a class, it will be recorded and available for viewing at your convenience.

Should you wish to pay with Zelle, please click the button below and enter the $395 registration fee, using my email

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