Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe

The Course
    Using both primary and secondary sources, the seminar will examine Renaissance ideas of antiquity, nature, proportion, talent, and the business of art, together with concepts of beauty, style, imitation, creativity, and the ideal, with a view to understanding the art produced in the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy and the shifts in style that occurred from the Early Renaissance to the High Renaissance to Mannerism. Primary sources (in translation) include Cennino Cennini, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Giorgio Vasari.

    Art and Theory in Renaissance Italy is a 300-level course. It examines viewpoints and theories contemporary with the art. 300-level courses incorporate the study of written sources contemporary with the artwork being examined with the view to developing an understanding of how the art was perceived and understood by the people who made and viewed it. The aim is to gain insight into how art objects were visually encountered and perceptually responded to as products of a particular visual culture.

Meeting Place and Time

  • Pannell 202: Wednesdays 1:30-4:00

Required Texts

  • Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
  • Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists (translation by Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella) (Oxford World's Classics, 2008).
  • Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, translated by Cecil Grayson with an introduction and notes by Martin Kemp (London: Penguin Books, 1991). Purchase a copy on Amazon
  • The material on this website

Student Responsibilities

  • Active class participation, which includes being prepared for each class, and taking part in discussion.
  • FIVE SHORT REPORTS on topics shown in the Schedule. To be handed in after all five reports have been presented. Each of the five artists will include references to each of the five topics (Antiquity, Nature, Proportion, Talent, Business).
  • TWO FULL REPORTS on sections of the readings shown in the Schedule.


  • Short Reports (x 5) = 50%
  • Each Full Report = 20%
  • Class participation = 10%

Office and Hours

  • Pannell 203: Tuesdays 2:15-3:00 and by appointment
  • phone: 6194
  • email: witcombe@sbc.edu


  • Attendance at every seminar meeting is expected. If you expect to be absent for whatever reason, notify me ahead of time.
  • Each absence without prior notification will result in a lowering of your final grade
  • Chronic absence will be noted and reported