BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in History

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC10041
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course unit uses in-depth analyses of individual artworks to introduce students to key methods and concepts of art historical understanding. Each lecture is focused on the detailed exposition of one artwork and the critical debates surrounding its interpretation. The lectures as a whole are arranged chronologically from the Ice Age to the Baroque, covering art produced around the globe. The course unit is neither the study of a canon nor a traditional survey of art history, although it will reflect upon both. It examines some well-known artworks of the past alongside others that have been considered marginal or have been neglected. Two things are key: that the artworks in focus are used to introduce and explain foundational art historical concepts, and that the lectures centre on the problems of understanding and interpreting artworks in relation to their historical moment. An important aim of the course unit is to provide students with a broad chronological and methodological armature for their study of art history in other course units. Accordingly, the lectures and seminars will explore skills of visual analysis, engage with critical issues of historical interpretation (style, period, school, movement, development etc.), and help students develop a theoretical toolkit for approaching the study of art history..


'Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in History ’ aims –

  • To introduce students to a rich and varied range of artworks (and works of architecture) produced around the globe from the Ice Age to c. 1700.
  • To provide students with an understanding of some of the problems of locating art in historical contexts.
  • To model students’ powers of description and analysis.
  • To introduce key concepts and methodological tools for the historical understanding of artworks.



Possible lectures may include:

  • The Venus of Lespugue, circa 25,000 BCE
  • The Temple of Poseidon at Paestum, circa 474-450 BCE
  • The Laocoön Group and Roman Sculpture, circa 113  
  • The Pantheon, Rome, 117-126 CE
  • Sikri, Mardan, Fasting Siddhartha, 200-300  
  • The Syon Cope, 1300-1320  
  • Giotto, St Francis and the Sultan, 1297
  • Sandro Botticelli, Nastagio degli Onesti, circa 1483  
  • Raphael, Vatican Stanze, 1508-1524
  • Kingdom of Benin, Head of an Oba, 16th Century
  • Michelangelo, The New Sacristy Sculptures, 1519-1534  
  • Pieter Breugel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565
  • Sofonisba Anguissola, Bernardino Campo Painting Sofonisba Anguissola, circa 1550 
  • Lavinia Fontana, Antonietta Gonzalez, 1595
  • Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, 1602  
  • Gianlorenzo Bernini, Fountain of the Four Rivers, 1651

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and small group seminars.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an understanding of some of the basic art historical terms for describing artworks (or works of architecture)
  • Locate artworks from the course in their historical context across the period.

Intellectual skills

  • Explain the problems of applying the idea of a canon to art history and of organizing artworks as a survey
  • Describe artworks at length, based on close observation
  • Develop multi-layered explanations of art’s relation to other historical phenomena

Practical skills

  • Write essays, both as coursework and in exams, that demonstrate a BA level 1 competence in the organization of evidence and argument

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Take appropriate notes in lectures.
  • Reflect on the qualities needed to contribute effectively in seminar discussion

Employability skills

To work alone and collaboratively Meet deadlines and take responsibility for one¿s own work Express ideas clearly in written and spoken form Use IT resources for research and communication

Assessment methods

Assessment TaskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
Essay or project plan with indicative bibliographyFormative500 words excluding bibliography0%
EssaySummative1300 words40%
ExamSummative2.5 hours/1700 words60%


Feedback methods

Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Written feedback on literature reviewSummative
Written feedback on essaySummative
One-to-one feedback during consultation hour/by appointmentFormative
Examination feedback (on request)N/A.


Recommended reading

Indicative bibliography

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, ‘Whose Culture is It?’, in James Cuno (ed.), The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities, Princeton, 2009, 71-86.

Arnold, Dana, Art History: A very short introduction, Oxford, 2004.

Bell, Julian, Mirror of the World: a new history of art, London, 2007.

Chadwick, Whitney, Women, Art and Society, London, 1990.

Elkins, James, Stories of Art, London and New York, 2002.

Gardner, Helen Louise, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, New York, 2009.

Gombrich, Ernst, The Story of Art (first pub. 1950), London and New York, 2006.

Gombrich, Ernst, ‘The Renaissance Conception of Artistic Progress and its Consequences’ in Ernst Gombrich, Norm and Form, London, 1966.  

Guha-Thakurta, Tapati, ‘The Museum in the Colony: Collecting, Conserving, Classifying’, in Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India, Kolkata, 1994,42-82  

Harrison, Charles, An Introduction to Art, New Haven, 2009.

Honour, Hugh and Fleming, John, A World History of Art, London, 1999.

Janson, H. W., History of Art, London, 1995.

Klein, Jennie, 'Goddess: Feminist Art and Spirituality in the 1970s', Feminist Studies 35, no. 3, 2009, 575-602

Pollock, Griselda, ‘About Canons and Culture Wars’, Differencing the Canon, New York, 1999, 2-21

Pointon, Marcia, History of Art: a student’s handbook, London and New York, 1992.

Pooke, Grant, and Diana Newall, Art History: the basics, London and New York, 2008. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Edward Wouk Unit coordinator

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