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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: The Mirrors of Art: Painting and Reflection in Early Modern Europe (HIAR10185)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course addresses a central conceptual paradigm for painting first put forward by Brunelleschi, Jan van Eyck, and Alberti, that painting should resemble the view through a window or a mirror reflection of the visible world. It tests the motif and the metaphor of painting as specular through a range of historical contexts and types of material. The range of interdisciplinary and contextualising themes presented and the richness of the materials - visual, textual, artefactual - offers students a conceptual as well as historical grounding in the field as seen through a key theoretical matrix for the arts of the period.
Course description The course gives students an analytical grounding in the nature and significance of European early modern painting, understood through the key period paradigm of mimesis, represented as a mirror reflection. It will focus on different aspects of the theme of early modern painting conceptualised as specular. Topics explored will normally include: the decorative arts of mirror manufacture both as objects and as represented in paintings and prints, including Jewelled tabletop mirrors, collectors┐ display cabinets, catoptric museums, toys and dolls┐ houses, and mirror interiors exemplified in the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles; the use of the mirror in artistic practice as an instrument of translation from 3d to 2d; the rise of self-portraiture as a new artistic genre predicated on the use of mirrors; theorisation of painting as specular in historical treatises on art such as Brunelleschi, Alberti and Leonardo; the application of the mirror image in a range of trick imagery and optical toys such as anamorphosis from Holbein's Ambassadors to Baroque illusionistic ceiling painting and perspectival treatises of the period; the use of mirrors in scientific instruments of vision such as the telescope and the microscope; the rise of the inset mirror detail within painting from the Arnolfini portrait to Las Meninas; the relationship between the mirror reflection and the female form as linked signs of the 'beauty' of art defined as imitation.

As for History of Art Senior Honours courses, it will be structured as a sequence of weekly two-hour seminars with in-class presentations.
Total Contact Hours: 28
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of early modern theorisations of the image and detailed knowledge of its historical manifestations in art.
  2. Develop and present in written form a reasoned historical analysis focused around a cohesive group of object(s), text(s), themes and arguments.
  3. Critically review and evaluate the scholarship on early modern representations of painting as specular, and existing theoretical frameworks for its analysis.
  4. Communicate new research and analysis to the class including direct engagement with early modern objects and primary sources, using ICT
  5. Collaborate with the class to develop a mini-conference in which student groups present an 'exhibition pitch' focused on a selection of early modern artefacts, using ICT
Reading List
Jonathan Miller, On Reflection, London: National Gallery, 1998.

Ernst Gombrich Art and Illusion: A study in the psychology of pictorial representation, AW Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, National Gallery Washington, London: Phaidon Press, 1960.

Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, London & New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.

Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983.

Victor Stoichita, The Self-Aware Image: Insights into Early Modern Meta-Painting, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Hans Belting, Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Genevieve Warwick, ┐Looking in the Mirror of Renaissance Art┐, Art and Technology in Early Modern Europe, special issue, Art History, 39:2, 2016, 255-81.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Generic cognitive skills:
Students will develop critical analysis, evaluation, and synthesis; identify, conceptualise, and define new and abstract problems and issues; develop original and creative responses to problems and issues; critically review, consolidate, and extend knowledge.
Research and enquiry:
Through lectures, in-class activities, and independent research, students will develop highly- honed skills in research and enquiry to identify and creatively tackle problems, and to seek out opportunities for learning.
Working with others:
Students will exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in seminars and group activities; take responsibility for own work; work in a peer relationship with specialists and fellow students.
Personal and intellectual autonomy:
Students will use their personal and intellectual autonomy to critically evaluate ideas, evidence and experiences from an open-minded and reasoned perspective, stimulated by analytical skills developed in close textual readings and independent research for the summative assignment.
KeywordsPainting,drawings,prints,decorative arts,mimesis,Early Modern
Course organiserDr Genevieve Warwick
Tel: (0131 6)50 4111
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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