Parmigianino. Portrait of Gian Galeazzo Sanvitale, 1529. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.


The Renaissance: Part Two – 1500 to 1568

  • Begins: Wednesday 9 January 2019
    Until: Wednesday 13 March 2019
  • Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP
  • Lecturer: Dr Geoffrey Nuttall

In 2018 we looked at the key innovations of the fifteenth-century Renaissance which came out of a revolution in the representation of the visual world and artists’ changing conceptions of Space, Vision and Nature, through their patrons’ increasingly demanding and sophisticated responses to Piety, Antiquity and the idea of Magnificence; the representation of the Human Body and, finally, the emergence of a new concept of Personal Identity and the Status of the Artist.

By 1500, the Renaissance entered a new and even more dynamic phase, driven by the emergence of a completely new individual, The Artistic Genius, in the monumental characters of Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. Historical events also contributed: the discovery of the New World, the Protestant Reformation, and also scientific and technical advances brought about profound cultural change and, above all, the reproduction of art and the dissemination of its ideas through printing.

1500 also witnessed a new political and spiritual situation. Following the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, the centre of artistic patronage in Italy shifted from Florence to Rome, as the resurgent capital of the Western Church sought out the best architects, painters and sculptors to rebuild and adorn its ancient churches, to create new urban spaces and luxurious new palaces. The struggle for supremacy between the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of France made Italy the battle ground of Europe throughout the first half of the sixteenth century, but also making the Italian Renaissance the paradigm of aesthetic taste and the model for artistic patronage throughout Europe.

In response to all these factors, the Renaissance style of the Quattrocento evolved into the sixteenth-century High Renaissance, represented most heroically in the oeuvre of Michelangelo and Raphael in Rome. And in turn, this High Renaissance ‘decayed’ into Mannerism, best exemplified in the work of Raphael’s pupil, Giulio Romano.

This course therefore focusses on the artists of the sixteenth century, whose reputations sometimes eclipsed even the most illustrious of their patrons. The course is introduced by Vasari, and how his accounts of these artists in the Second Edition of his Lives of the Artists has conditioned our reverence, and in some cases engendered our loathing, of perhaps the most exciting period in all of art history.

We begin and end the survey of these artists with Michelangelo, who straddles the period 1500 to 1564 like a colossus. Between, we will look at seven other key artists, four Italian and three from Northern Europe, looking at their careers and key works, relating them to the cultural, political and social environment in which they worked, and highlighting their unique contribution to this, the second part of the Renaissance.

Week 1:  Vasari Week 6:   Parmigianino
Week 2:  The ‘Young’ Michelangelo Week 7:   Giulio Romana
Week 3:   Dürer Week 8:   Bruegel
Week 4:   Raphael Week 9:   Titian
Week 5:   Gossaert Week 10: Michelangelo


Dr Geoffrey Nuttall has several degrees including an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck and a PhD from the Courtauld. He is a specialist in the Courts of Europe and their dealings with the merchants of luxury goods. He lectures at the V&A and international conferences, and recently held a fellowship at the Huntington Collections and Art Gallery in California.

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