BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Art of Late Medieval Italy: Commerce, Religion, Travel 

Course unit fact file
Unit code AHCP20171
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Visual art was central to lived experience in Italy during the fourteenth century. It was used in domestic, religious and political settings and both shaped and reflected the way people understood the world around them. Using examples from different centres within Italy – including Padua, Bologna, Naples, Assisi, Siena, and Florence - the unit explores ways in which art – including paintings, textiles, and sculpture - was made and used. The course unit specifically questions the range of different materials, influences from outside Italy, and those who were involved in art as subjects, viewers and patrons.


Introduce students to primary and secondary source material – visual and textual – for studying art in Italy during the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  

This will include consideration of: 

  • Techniques and materials, including those relating to sculpture, textiles, and painting 
  • The impact of state and religious institutions on art 
  • The ways in which religious beliefs were demonstrated in art of the period 
  • Secular art 
  • Encounters with other cultures
  • Questions surrounding the commissioning of art by different types of patron, including women

Learning outcomes

This course unit will enable students to gain and improve a number of skills including:

  • Time management and being able to work to deadlines. 
  • Working in a team and leading and participating in discussion. 
  • Presenting an argument to an audience and being able to field questions. 
  • Presenting written material in a professional format. 
  • Working, with guidance, on research including finding suitable material for assessments and being able to assess this material. 
  • Reflection on discussions and assignments enabling future improvement.


Topics covered may include:  

1. The religious orders and their art in Italy (Franciscans) 

2. The religious orders and their art in Italy (Dominicans) 

3. Ruling Italy: The City State and its images 

4. Secular art in the home 

5. Ruling Italy: The Kingdom of Naples 

6. Women and Art 

7. Encounters with other cultures 

8. Images, miracles, relics and reliquaries 

9. Sculpture 

10. The artist’s world: materials, techniques, and commissions 

11. Textiles and Art

Teaching and learning methods

This is a seminar-based course unit: 3 seminar hours per week. Students are required to prepare for discussion in class using weekly set questions, readings, and images. Seminars will consist of mini-lectures, group and individual activities and discussions.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify different types of sources for Italian art of the period being studied. 
  • Explain key issues in the study of art in Italy during this period. 
  • Demonstrate the ability to locate, select, organise, interpret, evaluate and present material appropriate to the course.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse art covered in the course unit. 
  • Articulate intellectual arguments orally and in writing. 
  • Critically evaluate secondary source material.

Practical skills

  • Produce detailed visual analyses. 
  • Use appropriate software (e.g Powerpoint) to give a presentation in class. 
  • Carry out supervised research in order to meet assessment requirements.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Participate confidently and appropriately in group discussions. 
  • Manage time effectively. 
  • Respond positively to constructive feedback.

Employability skills

Group/team working
Working in a team and leading and participating in discussion.
Written communication
Presenting written material in a professional format.
Time management and being able to work to deadlines.

Assessment methods

Formative - Essay plan. 

Summative - Literature review weighting 40%. 

Presentation weighting 10%. 

Essay weighting 50%.

Feedback methods

Formative - Individual meeting. 

Summative - Written feedback with opportunity for individual meeting.

Recommended reading

Overviews of Italian art in the fourteenth century can be found in:


John T. Paoletti and Gary Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, 3rd edition (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005), pp. 47-202.


Evelyn Welch, Art in Renaissance Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).


John White, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1250-1400 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966).


For life in the medieval city, focused on Italy, see:


Chiara Frugoni, A Day in a Medieval City (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005).


For specific examples of fourteenth-century art, and some of the questions that we will discuss in this course unit, see:


Roxann Prazniak, ‘Siena on the Silk Roads: Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the Mongol Global Century, 1250-1350’, in Journal of World History 21.2 (20102), pp. 177-217.


Vera-Simone Schulz, ‘Infiltrating artifacts: The Impact of Islamic Art in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Florence and Pisa’, in Konsthistorisk tidskrift 87:4 (2018), pp. 214-233.


Anne Dunlop, ‘On the origins of European painting materials, real and imagined’, in Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop, and Pamela H. Smith, eds, The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices, Cultural Logics, c. 1250-1750 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), pp. 68-96.  


Mario Ascheri and Bradley Franco, ‘Siena’s Golden Age: Montaperti and Good Government’, in A History of Siena from its Origins to the Present Day (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 39-65.


Bronwen Wilson, ‘Bedroom Politics: The Vexed Spaces of Late Medieval Public Making’, in History Compass10.9 (2012), pp. 608-621.


Bradley Franco, ‘The functions of early Franciscan art’, in The World of Saint Francis of Assisi, ed. William H. Ahlquist (Leiden: Brill, 2015) pp. 19-44. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cordelia Warr Unit coordinator

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