European Art from 1600: the Early Modern Period

  • Begins: Tuesday 7 January 2020
    Until: Tuesday 10 March 2020
  • Brockway Room, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
  • Lecturer: Giulia Martina Weston

These lectures will focus on European painting of the Early Modern period, discussing its conception, patronage, and historical significance. A leading spiritual and political force, the Church of the Counter Reformation fostered a new reverence for the transcendent power of images, urging us to question the relationship between the visual arts, social change, and religious strife. We start in 1600, a crucial turning point in the Roman careers of Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio. These artists’ work in the decoration of the Cerasi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo led to an unprecedented emphasis on the viewer’s role.

Whilst Caravaggio’s revolutionary style favoured the rise of the first pan-European artistic movement (only recently termed ‘Caravaggism’), Annibale Carracci’s idealized pictorial language, rich in borrowings from the great models of High Renaissance and antique arts, was carried further by his Bolognese pupils Guido Reni and Guercino. Through looking at the careers of Niccolò Tornioli and Carlo Dolci, we will highlight noticeable changes in the social role played by seventeenth-century artists in private and religious patronage. Strong bonds between artistic identity and intellectual freedom are especially revealed by the unique productions of Salvator Rosa and Castiglione, who respectively innovated traditional iconographic subjects and artistic techniques. Our enquiry will then address a variety of artistic phenomena in both Catholic and Protestant Europe, ranging from new religious subjects and icons in Spain, to Nicolas Poussin’s interpretation of Christian philosophy and morality and its legacy in French Classicist art, and to the wealth of genres explored by Rembrandt and his prolific studio in the Dutch Republic.

Close examination of seventeenth-century copies and forgeries, especially those produced by Angelo Caroselli and Giovanni Battista Salvi, will raise a debate on issues of authenticity and connoisseurship, which are still current and potent today.

1. Annibale Caracci: imitation and invention
2. Caravaggio and Caravaggism
3. The Bolognese School: Reni and Guercino
4. Siena vs Florence: Tornioli and Dolci
5. Salvator Rosa: artist genius
6. Castiglione: experimenting across media
7. Spanish religious painting during el signo de oro
8. Nicholas Poussin and French Classicism
9. Rembrandt and his workshop
10. Copies, forgeries and connoisseurship: Angelo Caroselli and Giovanni Battista Salvi (Sassoferrato)


Giulia Martina Weston holds a PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she has been Associate Lecturer since 2016. She is Consultant Lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and an independent art consultant. Her publications focus on various aspects of Renaissance and Early Modern art and society, and on issues of connoisseurship and authenticity.

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