“Italian Masterpieces”


Instructor: Dr. Rocky Ruggiero
Lecture Hours: 15 Hours
Credits: Certificate of Completion

Clicking “Buy Now” will direct you to our educational platform where you can securely check out and instantly access your course materials.

If you are interested in purchasing this recorded art history course with a Rocky Ruggiero gift card, please contact us.

Special offer


Italian Masterpieces

Course Description:
This course will explore those artistic masterpieces that serve as milestones of the Italian Renaissance and also in the development of Western art and architecture. Through an in-depth analysis of these works of art and architecture, as well as the historical context in which they were produced, we shall develop an understanding of how specific works of art, and the unique vision of the geniuses that produced them, transcend simple artistic value and become monuments to human achievement.

Course Objectives:
• To learn to appreciate the rich and influential aspects of Italian Renaissance art and architecture.
• To bring a historical period to life through a “hands on” approach to the monuments and works produced during this specific period known as the Renaissance.
• To develop the fundamental skills of art historical analysis that include formal analysis and iconographic interpretation
• To develop an ability to interact in a personal and intimate manner with works of art and their surroundings

Virtual Classroom: Upon registration, participants will have full access to an online educational platform with videos of recordings, syllabus, readings and discussion forum. Each lecture lasts 1 hour 15 minutes.

Credits: Certificate of Completion

Access: Students have lifetime and unlimited streaming access to the course content.

Supplemental Readings & Podcasts: Readings and Podcasts are provided to students to enhance the course experience.


Lecture 1: The Competition Panels

The competition of 1401 for the contract for a set of bronze doors for Florence Baptistery is generally considered the event that kicked off the Renaissance. Firstly, because of the date of the competition, which coincides with the chronological beginnings of the Renaissance. Secondly, because of the artists involved – Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi – who were two of the greatest of the Renaissance. Finally, because competition amongst great artists would become one the central leitmotifs of the Italian Renaissance.

This lecture will explore how each artist brought his own unique vision and style to his work, and why sometimes losing actually means winning.

Lecture 2: Brunelleschi and the Dome of Florence Cathedral

Towering 32 stories tall and with an interior diameter of 143’6’’, Brunelleschi’s dome is still the largest in the world. No other work defines the determination and vision of Renaissance Florentines better than this engineering marvel, which showed the world that Renaissance artists were not simply imitating their classical ancestors – but surpassing them!

This lecture will explore the history of the construction of Brunelleschi’s great dome and unravel the secrets behind its design.

Lecture 3: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise

Often described as the most beautiful and famous doors on the planet, the Gates of Paradise took nearly a full generation for their artist, Lorenzo Ghiberti, to complete. The ten richly- decorated-gilded-bronze panels depict Old Testament subject matter like pages from a picture book.

This lecture will examine how the goldsmith Ghiberti infused each panel with his exquisite mastery of craftsmanship and detail, in addition to his extraordinary ability as a visual storyteller.

Lecture 4: Masaccio’s Holy Trinity

Although not as highly publicized as many other more famous paintings, the Holy Trinity by Masaccio might just be the most important painting in Florence and is certainly one of the most important of all time. The reason is that it is the first painting ever, in the entire history of art, to apply a technology known as linear or single-point perspective. Suddenly, painting could no longer only look three-dimensional, it now was three -dimensional!!!

This lecture will explore the mathematical principles behind the great painting, as well as how for the first time, science and theology synergized in Renaissance art.

Lecture 5: Donatello’s Bronze David

Donatello’s bronze David was the first free-standing nude statue to be made since ancient Roman times. In addition to restoring sculpture to its place alongside architecture, and not simply as ornamentation for it, Donatello also caused quite a ripple in traditional Christian iconography. The eroticism of the sculpture is palpable. Combined with anomalous details such as boots and a hat (for which my students have appropriately nicknamed the statue the Puss in Boots David) the true meaning of the sculpture has eluded people in my business for many years.

This lecture will explore the risqué aspects of the statue as well as discussing various theoretical interpretations of its symbolism.

Lecture 6: Alessandro Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus

When Botticelli painted the Primavera in the 1470s, he opened up a veritable Pandora’s Box. No longer would Renaissance artists be limited to simply dressing Christian saints in togas and sandals, they could now gradually introduce the very literature, philosophy and religion of the ancient Greco-Roman world into their own art.

This lecture will unpack Botticelli’s great allegorical painting by identifying its characters and their meaning; but it will also explore how the first Renaissance painting to ever depict a pagan subject was still loaded with Christianity.

Lecture 7: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper

Leonardo’s great masterpiece was painted in 1495 on a wall of the refectory of a Dominican convent in Milan, Italy, and is celebrated as the first work of the High Renaissance. Few people realize that Leonardo’s painting of the subject was the culmination of nearly 1,000 years of iconographic tradition. Moreover, his depiction of Jesus and twelve (soon to be eleven) of his closest followers sharing their last meal together was one of dozens of Last Supper paintings to adorn refectory – or “dining hall” – walls in Italy.

This lecture will explore the evolution of the subject of the Last Supper in Italian art, as well as explain why Leonardo’s Last Supper is perhaps the most perfect expression of form and content in Renaissance painting.

Lecture 8: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

When Leonardo began painting the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of the wealthy cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo, in 1503, little did he know just how much employment he would generate for future art historians. From theories concerning her enigmatic smile, to the painting being a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag, to her possibly being pregnant, just about everything that could possibly have been written about the Mona Lisa seems to have been written about her (perhaps with the exception of the alien conspiracy theory – stay tuned).

In addition to analyzing the formal aspects of the painting, this lecture will also examine just why the painting is so famous. Lastly, this lecture will also present some new and only recently published information that significantly changes our understanding of the painting.

Lecture 9: Michelangelo’s Pietà

The Pietà was Michelangelo’s first “number one hit.” At the ripe old age of 23 years, he had produced one of the greatest statues of all time. The innocence, sensitivity and stillness of this particular early work would never be achieved again in Michelangelo’s 72-year career.

This lecture will explore the meaning and tradition of the “Pietà” subject in art and also address why Michelangelo’s is the most famous interpretation.

Lecture 10: Michelangelo’s David

Michelangelo’s statue of the David has been described as the greatest expression of sculpture of all time. Standing 17’1’’ in height and weighing just over five tons, the sheer scale of the statue is breathtaking. Yet, there is much more to this sculpture than just its size. His near anatomical perfection, his civic value as symbol of the great Florentine Republic, as well as the dramatic narrative tension that Michelangelo’s imbues in the statue all contribute to its extraordinary quality.

This lecture will explore the history, iconography and importance of the sculpture that probably best defines the Renaissance, as well as the great artist who produced it.

Lecture 11: Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

When Michelangelo signed the contract with Pope Julius II in 1508 to paint the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, little did he know the turmoil that awaited him. Never before had such a large-scale painting been attempted on a ceiling – and by a sculptor no less! After four and a half years of physical strain, personal conflict with the pope, and an endless demand for inspiration, Michelangelo covered approximately 9,000 sq. ft. of ceiling with some of the most beautiful and sublime figures in history.

This lecture will examine the artistic importance, style and meaning of the of the ceiling, as well the extraordinary human drama behind its creation.

Lecture 12: Raphael and the School of Athens

The painter Raphael was one of the most talented and skilled painters in history. Although best known for his intimate and sentimental images of Mary and Baby Jesus, his great mural of the School of Athens, in the former library of Pope Julius II (now known as the Stanza della Segnatura), best defines him. In this painting, his depiction of the greatest philosophical and scientific minds of the ancient world, Raphael demonstrates his unrivaled ability to create a balanced composition, as well as sublime figures.

This lecture will formally identify its characters, which, in some cases, are also portraits of Renaissance artists, as well as analyze how Raphael synthesized the styles of Leonardo and Michelangelo into his own unique painting style.