00956 - History of Art Criticism

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - has the historical and methodological instruments of the history of art criticism in the medieval, modern and contemporary periods; - knows the sources for the historical reconstruction of political and economic contexts; - is able to analyse the theoretical aspects of the subject in the light of contemporary thought; has an adequate ability to contextualize the main moments of the history of visual arts according to the their historical and political milieu; - has a good command of the instruments to analyse texts and sources, including IT tools; - knows the most updated bibliography on the topic.    

Course contents

The course is intended to present the main moments of art criticism and historiography in Western culture, with a special focus on Italy, from origin to the contemporary debate. The different approaches to artworks and their history will be contextualized in their own periods.

Furthermore, the class will examine two very significant case studies as the Vite by Giorgio Vasari, looking at their two different editions of 1550 and 1568, and the Bolognese "reply" to this groundbreaking work by Carlo Cesare Malvasia in the Felsina pittrice (1678).

First Part

The Main Moments of Art Criticism and Historiography in Western Culture from Origin to Nowadays

Second Part

The Vite by Vasari and their Reception



First Part:

- Julius Schlosser Magnino, La letteratura artistica, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1964

(exclusively: Libro I: Il Medio Evo; Libro II: Il primo Rinascimento. L’eredità di Leonardo; Libro III: La storiografia dell’arte prima del Vasari; Libro IV: La teoria dell’arte nella prima metà del secolo XVI - n.b.: bibliographic records are not included).

If you cannot find the book on the market, it is possible to consult the volume in the Biblioteca "I.B. Supino" of the Dipartimento delle Arti or in the digitized and downloadable pdf version available on the following web page of Heidelberg University: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/schlosser1964.

- Orietta Rossi Pinelli (ed.), La storia delle storie dell'arte, Turin, Einaudi, 2014

- for attending students:

text passages read and commented upon during lessons


for non-attending students:

one reading or group of readings to be chosen among the following:

Donata Levi, Il discorso sull'arte. Dalla tarda antichità a Ghiberti, Milan, Bruno Mondadori, 2010;

Michael Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators. Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composition 1350-1450, Oxford (UK), Clarendon Press, 1971;

Paola Barocchi, "Storiografia e collezionismo dal Vasari al Lanzi", in Storia dell'arte italiana, I.2, Giovanni Previtali (ed.), L'artista e il pubblico, Turin, Einaudi, 1979, pp. 5-81;

Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900, New Haven (CT), Yale University Press, 1981;

Giovanni Previtali, La fortuna dei primitivi. Dal Vasari ai neoclassici, Turin, Einaudi, 1989;

Roberto Longhi, Proposte per una critica d'arte, in Roberto Longhi, Opere complete, XIII, Critica d'arte e buon governo, Florence, Sansoni, 1985, pp. 9-20 (available also in paperback edition: Pesaro-Rome, Portatori d'acqua, 2014, with a preface by Giorgio Agamben), as well as the conference proceedings Giovanni Previtali (ed.), L'arte di scrivere sull'arte. Roberto Longhi nella cultura del nostro tempo, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1982 and the article by Carmela Vargas, "Longhi 1950: la buona critica d'arte", Confronto. Studi e ricerche di storia dell'arte europea 8 (Decembre 2006), pp. 19-47 (downloadable pdf version available on the following web page: https://www.academia.edu/10025803/Longhi_1950_la_buona_critica_darte);

Giovanni Romano, Storie dell'arte. Toesca, Longhi, Wittkower, Previtali, Rome, Donzelli Editore, 1998.

Second Part:

- one "vita" by Vasari according to the editions of 1550 and 1568

- for attending students:

one reading to be chosen between the following:

Barbara Agosti, Giorgio Vasari: luoghi e tempi delle Vite, Milan, Officina Libraria, 2013;

Elizabeth Cropper, "A Plea for Malvasia's Felsina pittrice", in Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice Lives of the Bolognese Painters: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation, I, Early Bolognese Painting, London-Turnhout, Harvey Miller Publishers, 2012, pp. 1-47;


for non-attending students:

Barbara Agosti, Giorgio Vasari: luoghi e tempi delle Vite, Milan, Officina Libraria, 2013;

Marcella Brascaglia, "Introduzione", in Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice. Vite dei pittori bolognesi, edited by Marcella Brascaglia, Bologna, Edizioni ALFA, 1971, pp. 3-48.

Teaching methods

Lessons including critical readings of text passages and projected images, possible study visits.

Assessment methods

Oral examination. During the oral examination, students are required to demonstrate the acquisition of a critical understanding of the topics discussed during the course and a critical knowledge of the recommended bibliography. Students will be requested to show the ability to analyse the texts and images examined during the course and the study visits. Students should be able to handle the sources and the recommended readings in order to grasp the different approaches to artworks and their history. The performance of those students achieving an organic vision of the course contents and the use of a proper technical language will be assessed as excellent. The performance of those students showing a mostly mechanical or mnemonic knowledge of the subject, non-articulated synthesis and analysis skills, a correct but not always appropriate language, as well as a conventional study of the history of art criticism will be assessed as acceptable. The performance of those students showing learning gaps, inappropriate language, lack of knowledge of the instruments of the history of art criticism will be assessed as barely acceptable. The performance of those students showing learning gaps, inappropriate language, no orientation within the recommended bibliography and inability to analyse the history of art criticism will be assessed as poor or unacceptable.

Teaching tools

Text passages provided to attending students, power point presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Gianluca Del Monaco