11207 - Musical Iconography

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course provides the basic theoretical and methodological assumptions of the discipline and introduces to the understanding of the music-iconographic representations as sources for the history of music and its representations from antiquity to our day. At the end of the course, the student should acquire the critical skills necessary to contextualize the main iconographic themes attested in Western artistic production and should be able to to independently set up a research, identifying figures and musical contents referable both to the performance practices and to the ideal and symbolic sphere.

Course contents

The course will be structured in two main sections.

1. Introduction to Music Iconography : History, Methods and Perspectives

The first part of the course will shortly discuss the main theorethical and methodological principles of the discipline and will specifically focus on the scholarly research from 1980 onwards and on the main research projects currently underway  within the international context.

2. The theme of the Muses in the musical imagery of the early Renaissance

The monographic section of the course will examine the iconographic-musical fortune of the Muses in the context of the humanistic revival of themes and figures of antiquity. The course will illustrate, in the first place, the multiple thematic and iconographic components that feed the elaboration of new iconographic schemes and will analyze the peculiar meanings assigned to the Muses within the elaborate iconographic programs intended for the decoration of humanistic studies.

In this perspective, the cycle of the Muses originally located in the so-called 'Temple of the Muses' in the Palazzo Ducale of Urbino (the most ancient attestation of the musicians Muses within a courtly context), will provide an interesting study case, offering a precious variation on the theme of music as mirror of the Harmony created by Federico da Montefeltro during his reign.

The course will also include iconographic-music cataloging exercises and guided tours of museums and exhibitions.

The course will take place in the second semester, starting on Tuesday, February the 5th, 2019
Hours: Tuesday, 16-19; Thursday, 10-13.



T. SEEBASS, article Iconography, in The New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, Mac Millan, 2001, pp.54-71;

- N. GUIDOBALDI, Prospettive dell'Iconografia musicale all'inizio del terzo millennio, in Prospettive di iconografia musicale, Milano, Mimesis, 2007, pp. 7-37;

- N. GUIDOBALDI, Il ritorno delle Muse nel Quattrocento italiano,« RIdIM/RCMI Newsletter», vol. 17, n. 1 (spring 1992), pp. 15-25;

N. GUIDOBALDI, Il concerto delle Muse nella Città Ideale : indagini sul programma iconografico del Tempietto del Palazzo ducale di Urbino, con un’ipotesi di ricostruzione virtuale, in Music Culture in Sounds, Words and Images. Essays in honor of Zdravko Blazekovic, a cura di Antonio Baldassarre e Tatiana Markovic, Vienna, Hollitzer, 2018, pp. 477-494.


R. KLEIN, Considerazioni sui fondamenti dell'Iconografia, ne La forma e l'intelligibile. Scritti sul Rinascimento e l'arte moderna, Torino, Einaudi Paperbacks, 1975, pp. 387-411;

E. PANOFSKY, Meaning in the Visual Art. Paper in and on Art History, New York, 1955;

F. SAXL, Lectures, London, The Warburg Institute-University of London, 2 voll., 1957;

E. WINTERNITZ, Musical instruments and their Symbolism in Western Art, New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 1967.

N. GUIDOBALDI, Mythes musicaux et musique de cour au début de la renaissance italienne,« Musique Images Instruments», 5 (2003), pp 199-231.

Further references will be distributed during the readings.

Non attending students are required to read the texts listed in the first part of the bibliography, and are invited to contact the teacher to agree on a personalized work program for the examination.

Teaching methods

Readings and seminars.

The course will also include cataloging exercises and guided tours within the "Vedere i suoni" project.

For interested students, you will also be able to participate in the supplementary activities envisaged within the Laboratory of Iconography (2 CFU) which will be activated in the a.y. 2018-19.

Assessment methods

The exam consists of an oral interview aimed at assessing the critical and methodological skills and knowledge acquired by the student, who will be invited to confront the texts, the themes and the methodological issues faced during the course and during the seminars.

Attending students will be required to elaborate an individual job, to be agreed with the teacher and presented in seminar form during the last lessons of the course.

Non attending students are required to read the texts listed in the bibliography and are invited to contact the teacher to agree an alternative work program for the examination.

The assessment of the exam will take into account, in particular, the student's ability to use readings, sources, and exam bibliography to illustrate contents and issues, and to establish links between them .

The examinator will therefore assess the mastery of the content and the ability to synthesize and analyze the concepts, and the ability to express themselves in a language appropriated to the subject matter.

The student’s achievement of an organic vision of the themes dealt with in the lesson together with their critical use, good expressive mastery and specific language will be evaluated with excellence marks; formative gaps and / or inappropriate language, will lead to votes that will not exceed the sufficiency.

Teaching tools

PC, video projector, CD player.

Reproductions of texts and musical images  will be distributed during the course and made available on line at the end of the lessons.

Office hours

See the website of Nicoletta Guidobaldi