Spring 2022

Baroque Art

Listed in: Architectural Studies, as ARCH-269  |  Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-269  |  European Studies, as EUST-269

Formerly listed as: FIAR-42  |  FIAR-56


Nicola Courtright (Section 01)


(Offered as ARHA 269, ARCH 269, EUST 269) At the beginning of the seventeenth century, religious and social upheavals in Europe led to a renewed proliferation of exciting, innovative art. In this century of remarkably varied artistic production, paradoxes abounded. Artists sought the illusion of reality by imitating unimproved, even base or monstrous nature through close observation of the human body, landscape, and ordinary, humble objects of daily use. They imbued art meant to inspire religious devotion with unbounded eroticism or with the gory details of painful suffering and hideous death. Artists and architects made the visionary appear real and sensual. They adored the past but re-cast it in modern terms. Others continued to quest for perfection in a return to the lofty principles implicit in ancient artistic canons of ideality. More than ever before, artists explored the expression of passion through dramatic narratives and sharply revealing portraiture. They depicted dominating political leaders as flawed mortals—even satirized them through the new art of caricature—at the same time that they developed a potent and persuasive vocabulary in art, architecture, and gardens for the expression of the rulers’ absolutist political power.

This class will examine issues in Baroque art in depth through selected works of painting, sculpture, and architecture produced by artists in the Catholic countries of the seventeenth century, e.g. Caravaggio, Bernini, Poussin, Velázquez, and Rubens in Italy, France, Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, and parts of the Americas. It also engages the cultural, social, and intellectual framework for their accomplishments. 

Intermediate level, one other course in art history preferred but not required. Uncapped.

Spring Semester. Professor Courtright.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Intellectual skills and modes of learning: • Student achieves the skill of close looking to gain visual understanding; • considers how art and its culture are intertwined; • develops critical skills to analyze points of view from a historical period other than our own; • learns collaboratively with classmates; • develops ideas of one’s own in the midterm, short paper, and final project. Assessment based on: • ungraded, 1-paragraph abstracts of readings • discussion • midterm • 3-page paper • final project in scaffolded form, guided by regular meetings with professor Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Spring 2022