PROGRAM: “The Renaissance in Northern Italy: Milan, Parma, Mantua and Padua” | October 16 – 20, 2017

Art History Program (38 contact hours)

[Class time: Monday – Friday]






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This program will examine the art and architecture of Northern Italy during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Although Florence and Rome are usually considered to be the centers of Renaissance art, many cities north of the Apennines were also centers of extraordinary artistic production. Many believe that this was the result of an artistic “contamination”, as many of Florence’s greatest artists, such as Giotto, Donatello, Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, traveled to northern cities, exposing them to the ideas and movements of the Renaissance. But cities such as Parma would instead produce their own local geniuses such as Correggio and Parmigianino, whose work would rival that of any central Italian master. Regardless of the reason, by the end of the fifteenth century, much of Italy’s greatest art was being produced in cities that are better known today for their industry or culinary traditions. By examining this art and history first hand, we will define the meaning of the Renaissance in Northern Italy.
The program shall be based in Florence, Italy, which, due to its convenient accommodations and proximity to all of the cities that we shall visit, is the perfect hub from which to organize daily excursions by both motor and train transportation. One of the program days will also focus on Florence and the extraordinary collection of Northern Italian paintings in the Uffizi Gallery.


  • Monday October 16, 2017 (9:00am – 5:30pm) –  “Giotto and Donatello in Padua”: Day Trip to Padua

Sites visited: The Scrovegni Chapel and the Basilica of St. Anthony (Il Santo) | Duration: 8.5 hours

9:00am: Departure by private mini-vans from Florence to Padua
11:00am: Arrival in Padua, followed by coffee break
11:45am: Visit to the Scrovegni Chapel
Giotto’s 14th Century fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, is perhaps the seminal motion picture in Western Art. The artist transformed the iconic, sacred subjects of his contemporary painting world into a very human story- or what I call the “visual vernacular”. This lecture will examine a surprisingly modern aspect of Giotto’s work, the cinematic quality. To put it simply, the paintings in the chapel read like a motion picture or a film, in which humanity is the star. Giotto’s mise en scène is full of expressive character types, landscapes, colour and visual arrangements. The sequential arrangement and juxtaposition of scenes, instead, produce a visual narrative of which most modern film directors would be envious. In a purely visual medium, Giotto is able to evoke sounds and smells, emotions and expectations, humor and terror.
12:45pm: User-pay lunch arranged at three Michelin-star restaurant- “Le Calandre”
2:30pm: Visit to Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua (Il Santo)
In 1455, the great Florentine sculptor, Donatello, also went to Padua in order to create a large, bronze equestrian monument to the mercenary general Erasmo dei Narni, better known as “Gattamelata”. Donatello’s sculpture was the first equestrian monument since Roman times, and still stands today outside of the Santo. Donatello was then commissioned by the friars of the church to produce a series of bronze sculptures to decorate the high altar of their church. These often-overlooked sculptures are not only some of Donatello’s finest, but are also some of the most influential pieces of the Renaissance.
3:30pm: Depart Padua for Florence
5:30pm: Arrival in Florence


  • Tuesday October 17, 2017  (9:00am – 6:00pm) – “Correggio and Parmigianino, Northern Italian Renaissance Masters”: Day Trip to Parma

Sites visited: Camera di San Paolo, Church of San Giovanni Evangelista, the Duomo, the National Painting Gallery of Parma | Duration 9 hours

9:00am: Departure by private mini-vans from Florence to Parma
11:00am: Arrival in Parma, followed by coffee break
11:30am: Visit to the “Camera di San Paolo”
The Camera di San Paolo (1519) was Correggio’s first major commission in Parma. In the private quarters of a Benedictine abbess named Giovanna Piacenza, he executed a decorative fresco program filled with mythological and festive motifs. The particularly beautiful illusionistic ceiling decoration was a sort of a warm up for the stunning domes he would paint in the following years.
12:00am: Visit the church of San Giovanni Evangelista
Correggio’s first great dome painting (1520) was for the Benedictine church of S. Giovanni Evangelista. Here he painted an ambiguous subject of Jesus flying through the air in a daring sotto in sù perspective, surrounded by the twelve apostles. One of the apostles was intentionally hidden from the view of the public, and only visible to the celebrating clergy.
12:30am: Visit to the Duomo of Parma
One of the most stunning, yet overlooked, paintings of the Renaissance is Correggio’s breath-taking fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin (1526) in the dome of Parma cathedral. Gigantic painted figures of the apostles stand below an explosion of heavenly clouds and hundreds of angels that create a kind of celestial architecture upon which the Virgin Mary is assumed into heaven. The dramatic energy of the painting is a clear harbinger of the great Baroque paintings of the following century. Titian was said to have claimed that if the entire dome were filled with gold, it would still not equal the value of the painting.
1:00pm: User-pay lunch arranged at the one Michelin-star restaurant “Parizzi”
2:30pm: Visit the National Painting Gallery of Parma
The Pinacoteca of Parma contains an amazing collection of works by Correggio, Parmigianino and Leonardo da Vinci. Here we shall examine the altarpieces of Correggio, as well as Parmigianino’s celebrated Turkish Slave and one of Leonardo’s most beautiful female figures, known as La Scapiliata.
4:00pm: Depart Parma for Florence
6:00pm: Arrival in Florence


  • Wednesday October 18, 2017  (9:00am – 6:30pm) – “The Renaissance Artist at Court”: Day Trip to Mantua

Sites visited: Palazzo Duccale (Camera degli Sposi), Basilica of Sant’Andrea, Palazzo del Te (Sala of Psyche and dei Giganti) | Duration 9.5 hours

9:00am: Departure by private mini-vans from Florence to Mantua
11:15am: Arrival in Mantua, followed by coffee break
11:45am: Visit to the Palazzo Ducale to view Mantegna’s Camera degli Sposi
The Camera degli Sposi (1465-1474) is perhaps Andrea Mantegna’s most famous work. Decorating the reception room of the Marquis of Mantua, Ludovico II Gonzaga, Mantegna created an incredibly vivid “picture” of life at a Renaissance court. In addition to the various portraits of the royal family that Mantegna included in his fresco, he also captured the less noble elements of court life such as the dwarves/jesters and actual portraits of the royal dogs.
12:45am: Visit to the Basilica of Sant’Andrea
Designed by the great Florentine architect, Leon Battista Alberti, Sant’Andrea (1470) is the first great Renaissance style church in northern Italy. Its façade best embodies the return to classical architectural philosophy that characterized the Renaissance, and represents one of the few projects designed by the theoretician Alberti that was actually built. Sant’ Andrea is also celebrated for housing one of Christianity’s greatest relics- the blood of Christ brought to Italy by St. Longinus himself.
1:15pm: User-pay lunch arranged at the “Antica Trattoria Cento Rampini” to try their famous tortelli di zucca (pumpkin-filled tortellini)
3:00pm: Visit to the Palazzo del Te
The Palazzo Te (1526-1535) was both designed and decorated by the great Mannerist artist and pupil of Raphael, Giulio Romano. Built as the new royal residence of the Marquis turned Duke of Mantua, Federico II Gonzaga, every detail of the building was intended to delight the visitor. From the Sala dei Cavalli where the Gonzaga would banquet surrounded by actual portraits of their prize winning horses, to the extraordinarily erotic paintings in the Sala of Psyche, and finally, to the staggering Sala dei Giganti, with its colossal-scale figures who create a veritable sense of virtual reality, the Palazzo Te is one of the world’s most unique and beautiful buildings.
4:30pm: Depart Mantua for Florence
6:30pm: Arrival at the Palazzo Tornabuoni


  • Thursday October 19, 2017  (2:30pm – 5:30pm) – Northern Italian Painting in the Uffizi Gallery

Sites visited: Uffizi Gallery, Florence”

Although the most well-known paintings of the Uffizi Gallery are by central Italian masters, the collection also contains numerous works by Northern Italian painters such as Mantegna, the Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Correggio and Parmigianino. This lecture will focus on the works of these Northern artists and how each contributed to defining a Northern Renaissance in Italian art.


  • Friday October 20, 2017  (9:00am – 7:10pm) – “Leonardo da Vinci and the Court of the Sforza”: Day Trip to Milan

Sites visited: Castello Sforzesco, Brera Gallery, and Santa Maria dell Grazie

Seeking to soften the militant and belligerent reputation of the Lombard capital city, Duke Ludovico “the Moor” Sforza sought the services of an extraordinary artist and inventor from Florence by the name of Leonardo da Vinci. The artist’s arrival in Milan in 1481 marked a turning point in Milan’s history, introducing the all’antica style to the city and transforming Milan into a true European capital of culture.
9:00am: Departure by 1st class Frecciarossa train to Milan
10:40am: Arrival in Milan and taxi to Castello Sforzesco
11:30am: Visit of Castello Sforzesco to view Michelangelo’s “Rondanini Pietà”
The so-called “Rondanini Pietà” was Michelangelo’s last sculpture. Intended as his own funerary monument, the artist worked on the piece over the last decade of his life. Tragic and frail in appearance, the sculpture is often interpreted as reflecting the fragile state of mind of an extraordinary artist in the twilight of his life.
12:00pm: Walk over to Brera Gallery
12:30pm: Visit of Brera Gallery
The Brera Gallery houses one of the most important collection Italian paintings in the world, displaying works by the Bellini brothers, Tintoretto, Raphael, Piero della Francesca and Caravaggio (inserisci “Madonna of the Egg by P. della Francesca)
1:30pm: Userpay group lunch at Obikà restaurant
2:30pm: Walk to the Duomo of Milan
3:30pm: Visit of Leonardo’s “Last Supper”
Leonardo’s Last Supper painting in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is considered to be the first work of art of the High Renaissance, and is one of the most iconic paintings in history. Originally painted in an experimental technique, the painting has undergone various restorations throughout the centuries. After the most recent intervention in the 1990’s, much of the painting’s original detailing and color is again visible.
5:30pm: Departure by 1st class Frecciarossa train to Florence
7:10pm: Arrival in Florence


PROGRAM “The Renaissance in Northern Italy: Milan, Parma, Mantua and Padua” | October 16- 20, 2017



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