Special Topics:
Creating Value: The Business of Art in Early Modern Europe
MW 10:00am - 11:30am
210 Tappan
3 Credit Seminar

What makes a work of art "valuable"? How does the cultural and social significance of a work relate to its price on the market? How did artists carve out niches in a growing art market by generating distinctive products? This course examines concepts of value in the art of Early Modern Europe by addressing these questions. In this period, the value of a commissioned work depends not only on its artistic merits, but also on its capacity to signal the social and cultural worth of the patron. We will investigate how Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian negotiated the system of patronage in Renaissance Italy. Working for prominent families in the communes and the noble courts, they created works that communicated specific artistic, cultural, and political values to a diverse audience. The rulers in Northern Europe likewise underscored their status through the visual arts, and were prepared to handsomely reward their favorite artists. We will consider how artists like Titian and Rubens mythologized the monarchical power of their patrons, and at the same time asserted their own financial and social success. This period also saw the rise of a market for finished works of art in Europe. Focusing on Netherlandish artists such as the Bruegel family, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, we will explore how artists adopted different artistic and marketing strategies in an increasingly complex market. We will also ask how the production of copies, spin-offs, and forgeries can, paradoxically, tell us about the changing value of originality in this period. Readings and discussions in this interdisciplinary seminar will introduce students to several theoretical models for studying the interactions between artistic production and social, economic, and cultural forces. Requirements: participation in class discussion, short response paper, oral presentation, research paper (10-15 pages).

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