10362 - Phenomenology of Styles (1)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2022/2023

Course contents

The course is structured in a series of lectures and a part in which the student, individually or in small groups will carry out an exercise consisting of a small research in the field of architectural and non-architectural ornamentation.

The words "ornament" and "decoration" are almost synonymous although it will be necessary to verify the differences between them.

Our attention will go, theoretically, to the great thematic and theoretical diarchy that the brilliant Austrian art historian Alois Riegl (1858 - 1905) summarized with two assonant and, to some extent, oppositional terms: das Ornament (the ornament) and das Argument (the subject, in the sense of the anecdote depicted).

These two vectors govern the history of visual civilization, of portrayal: while das Argument is, in every age, the mundane reality in all its forms that the artist strives to reproduce (to use Riegl's words again "in competition with nature"), das Ornament are all those geometric or natural forms specifically plant or animal, rendered, however, stereotyped, the same, synthetic, repeated, which go to constitute an ornamental motif. In certain historical epochs these two authorities, das Argument and das Ornament proceed by their own independent ways, while in other periods of history they come to terms, hybridize, such that we will witness aspects of the mundane scenery being rendered in an un-naturalistic and decorative manner, or, on the contrary, lush and more naturalistic decoration.

On the basis of this we will analyze this dialectic throughout history with special reference to the transition between the 19th and 20th centuries.

For the exercises we will go in search of the mutations of the archiectenoco ornamentation on the palaces of Bologna right from the end of the 19th century, when the Modern style (i.e. Art Nouveau, Art Nouveau, Sezessonstil) renews the classical stylistic features that are now obsolete.


The preparation consists of two compulsory texts and one optional text.

required texts:

(a) Gian Luca Tusini, La pelle dell'ornamento. Dinamiche e dialettiche delladella decorazione tra Otto e Novecento, BUP, Bologna 2008.

(b) the following "Vocabulary" entries in What a wonderful world. La lunga storia dell'Ornamento tra arte e natura, catalogo della mostra tenuta a Reggio Emila nel 2019 - 2020, Skira, Milano 2019. The entries are: ARABESco, BORDI, DECORAZIONE, LINEA, MODANATURE, ORDINE, PATTERN, POLARITÁ, STILE. THE PDF OF THE ENTIRE "VOCABULARY" WILL BE AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE ON "VIRTUALE" AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Choice of one of the following:

(aa) Elisabetta di Stefano, Estetiche dell'ornamento, Mimesis, Milano2006.

(bb) Enrico Maria Davoli, Da Corinth ad Avalon.Storie di decorazione e arte in Occidente , Cleup, Padua 2021.

(cc) Henry Focillon, La vita delle forme trad. it., Einaudi, Torino 1990.

(dd) Ernst Gombrich, Il senso dell'ordine, trad. it. Einaudi, Torino 1984.

(ee) Massimo Carboni, L'ornamentale tra arte e decorazione, Jaca Book, Milan 2000.

Teaching methods

The method used involves the active partecipation of the students who are invited to speak during the lessons with observations. All this makes the lessons a chance to exchange views and debate.

Assessment methods

The test will consist of an oral examination in which the candidate will demonstrate that they have assimilated the content of the lesson, both in terms of fundamentals and in terms of references. Will be evaluated, as well as the degree of preparation, properties of language, knowledge of the authors which reference is made, the ability to build a speech critically aware. Training gaps, imprecise language, only rote learning will be evaluated negatively.

Those students who show developed analytical skills of selected readings and their correct contextualization within a complete vision of the issues discussed during lectures will be given a mark of excellence. Mastering of field-specific language and good expression during the examination will also be required (A =28-30 con lode).

Those students who show mnemonic knowledge of the subject and a superficial analysis of selected readings, as well as a correct but not always appropriate mastering of the field-specific language will be given a satisfactory mark (B = 25-27 and C = 23-24).

Those students who will show vague knowledge and superficial understanding of selected readings, limited analytical skills and a not always appropriate expression will be given a ‘pass’ mark roughly (D = 18-22).

Those students who show gaps in their knowledge and lack of familiarity with selected readings will not be given a ‘pass’ mark (E).

Teaching tools

The lectures will be supported by modern digital projection of images and the use of multimedia tools.

Office hours

See the website of Gian Luca Tusini