Seminars, Schools and Summer Series

Early Italian Art 1250–1400: Assisi and the illusion of reality

  • Thursday 11 July 2019
  • Sarah Fell Room, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
  • Lecturer: Dr John Renner

During the summer of 2019 we are offering a series of linked but separate study days on Early Italian Art from 1250 to 1400. Each day can be booked individually. We also intend to include some small group visits to the V&A and the National Gallery. These will be organised separately and subject to demand.

This series will examine the revolutionary developments in Italian art from around 1250 to the end of the fourteenth century. It will explore how the cities of central Italy, at that time among the richest and most dynamic in all Europe, provided the nurturing environment in which the arts could flourish.

Programme for Day 3

The Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi was begun in 1228 less than two years after the death of St Francis to house the tomb of the newly-canonised saint whose rapidly-expanding order of friars would transform western Christianity. Over the next ninety years the two-storeyed gothic church was adorned with an array of stained glass (the first of its kind in Italy) and a rich programme of mural paintings by Giotto and other leading artists from Rome, Florence and Siena. Art historians have long recognised the revolutionary impact of the unprecedented naturalism and pictorial sophistication of those frescoes. The religious and artistic revolutions that began in Assisi had an impact both immediate and far-reaching.


  1. The tomb of St Francis.
  2. The nave frescoes in the Upper Church.
  3. Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti in the Lower Church.
  4. New saints, new art, in Assisi and beyond.

Future days

  • Siena: the city of the Virgin – 23rd July 2019
  • Florence, Giotto and the roots of the Renaissance –  7th   August 2019
  • Fresco Cycles (Clare Ford Wille) – 6th  Sept 2019


Dr John Renner is a specialist in late-medieval Italian art, with a PhD from The Courtauld. He lectures at The Courtauld, the V&A and elsewhere, while researching and publishing on the art of the mendicant orders. He has given two previous courses for the London Art History Society.

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