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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Early Modern Art: The Underbelly of the Baroque"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Laura Foster
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 1:30 PM 2:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Art History or permission of the instructor

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of the art of the early modern world. Courses are normally research-led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

The Baroque period is generally associated with religious and political triumphalism that produced sumptuous monuments in art and architecture. Its underbelly, so to speak, is seen in the myriad images and spaces that instead sought to represent a newly visualized social body, diverse and seemingly uncontrollable. The course takes a close look at the religious and cultural environment of the Counter-Reformation, roughly from the period of 1550-1700, in order to explore the ways in which a culture of discipline and social order affected images and built space. Focused primarily on Rome, the course explores the new methods of spatial segregation and social observation implemented in architecture, urban space, and forms of imaging, including painting for élite spaces. Topics to be discussed include the disciplinary role of images of violence; the representation of subcultures or subaltern populations and the attempt to control them in institutions; the effort to mold social behavior through modeling in images and the shaping of public spaces; and the limitations of artistic creation according to public or private consumption. The course will consider both artworks by protagonists of the Baroque period like Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi, as well as lesser-known works in painting, architecture, and printmaking.

  • An in-depth knowledge of the social and religious history of Rome in the early modern period

  • Understanding different methods for analyzing issues of identity in visual representation

  • Skills in undertaking research from primary sources, including direct observation of works of art and architecture.

  • Understanding of how urban space contributes to conditions of social order

  • Historical understanding of modern techniques of social control through visual and

    spatial devices

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Altarpieces and Their Viewers in the Churches of Rome from Caravaggio to Guido Reni Pamela JonesRoutledge978-1138246737   
Representing from Life in Seventeenth-Century ItalySheila McTigheAmsterdam University Press9789048533268  
A Companion to Early Modern Rome, 1492-1692Pamela Jones, Barbara Wisch, and Simon Ditchfield, eds.Brill9789004391963  
Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation RomeTessay StoreyCambridge University Press9780511386930 Book on order for the library
Painting as Medicine in Early Modern Rome: Giulio Mancini and the Efficacy of ArtFrances GagePennsylvania State University Press9780271071039N5273 .G26 2016 

In-class reading presentationsStudents will be assigned specific readings (at least 2 during the semester) and will lead discussion on that text. Students will summarize the reading and provide a critical analysis of the author’s approach to the topic, with special attention to methodology (e.g. formal analysis, iconography, discursive analysis). Discussion of the texts will also demonstrate reflection upon the specific works under consideration.15%
Research Paper with Class Presentation The paper of 3000-3500 words (approximately 10-12 pages) may concern a specific site, work of art, or institution (and its patronage of art or architecture) and will analyze it according to some aspect of the course theme. The paper will review existing bibliography on the topic and explore a specific research question. Students will meet individually with the professor in the writing process to discuss research strategies, methodology, and interpretive questions. Material from the paper will be presented to the class through a talk and slide presentation, ideally focusing on one particular aspect of the paper. The final paper is due at the last class meeting (exam period).40%
Midterm ExaminationThe exam will be composed of image comparisons and short essays based on the themes treated in the first half of the semester.20%
Final examinationThe final exam will cover the second half of the semester and follow the same format as the midterm. A final essay topic will be cumulative in scope.25%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


NOTE: This is a provisional schedule subject to change. The full syllabus with reading requirements and assignment due dates will be made available on Moodle before the first day of classes.


Week 1
•Course Introduction and Syllabus Overview
Experiments in Social Segregation: The Jewish Ghetto and the Ortaccio for Prostitutes

Week 2
•Visibility and invisibility in the city: The battle against prostitution and proliferation of convents

Prostitutes and Self-Representation: The house as social sign

•Friday makeup session - Urban planning as instrument of social control: Rome under Pope Sixtus V

Week 3:
•Institutionalization of the Poor: Hospices and Hospitals
Anatomy of the Palace: Social hierarchy and spatial distribution in the aristocratic household

Week 4:
The Birth of the Prison: The Carceri Nuove on via Giulia

The Possession of Public Space through Spectacle: Pope Innocent X and Piazza Navona

Week 5:
•Visuality and Knowledge: New architectural types for colleges, libraries, and theaters

•Machines of Discipline: Carlo Fontana's House of Correction for Boys

Week 6:
•Review and discussion for midterm examination

•Midterm Exam


Week 7:
•Research Workshop: Strategies for choosing a topic, developing a bibliography and using scholarly texts

Codes of naturalism in visual imagery: Drawing from nature and constructing nature

Week 8:
Representing Martyred Bodies as Didactic Method

•Virtuous Women and Physical Injury: Martyrs and Heroes

Week 9:
Honor and Reputation before Representation: Artemisia Gentileschi in Life and Art

The Development of Genre and Social Observation in Painting and Printmaking

Week 10:

The Act of Looking as Medicine: Art Theory and Visual Knowledge

High and Low Spaces: The Dangers of Music and the Occult

Week 11:

Imaging Social Disorder: The Emergence of le Zingare (Roma women) in Genre Paintings

Imaging Social Disorder: The Bamboccianti and Lazy Romans

Week 12:

The Catholic Discourse on Slavery and Its Visual Representations: Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain 

The Catholic Discourse on Slavery and Its Visual Representations: Diego Velàzquez and Juan de Pareja in Rome

Week 13:
•Research Presentations

Week 14:
•Research Presentations

•Review and discussion for final examination