Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The Renaissance and Baroque periods in Rome, Florence and Venice produced some of the most influential artworks in the western canon. Works by Da Vinci and Michelangelo, for example, have come to typify the 'rebirth' of the western intellectual and spiritual traditions. In order to appreciate the history and ongoing contemporary significance of these traditions, the study of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture offers students unique insights into the philosophy, spirituality, politics, literature and music of the day. This unit will examine the significance of the individual, the nature of truth and beauty, the influence the Papal state on art and culture and the rise of patronage resulting from the dominance of ruling families such as the Medici. Students will explore how artworks represent and reflect on mercantile culture in Italy and northern Europe, the effects of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the establishment of the Church of England. These aspects of cultural history are woven into the naturalism and order of the Renaissance and the grandeur and drama of the Baroque.

The aim of this unit is to explore this intriguing and complex period through the lens of art and architecture, providing students with greater insight into the richness and complexity of the western tradition and its dialogue with other traditions in the emergence of the modern world.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe and differentiate between the major periods and developments in Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture and discuss their connection to western intellectual, humanist and spiritual traditions (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Communicate complex ideas and findings effectively and succinctly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA5, GA7, GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to the study of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture to develop an evidence-based narrative or argument (GA5, GA8, GA10)

LO4 - Apply critical reading and analytical skills to their understanding of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture (GA4, GA5).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • Renaissance and Baroque Rome: iconographies of a Classical past  
  • Faith, truth and the growing importance of the power of the individual 
  • Art, artists and patronage 
  • Complex relationships between aesthetics, politics, humanist philosophy and religion during the period  
  • The influence of Byzantine and classical styles in the architecture of Venice and Rome respectively. 
  • Perspectives: the significant and lasting impact of the formal developments and art practices from Renaissance and Baroque periods, on the history of western art to the present day. 
  • Intersections between Baroque church design and developments in music and instrument making  
  • The significance of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in European politics and culture and how these differences are conveyed in art and architecture.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit operates as a Socratic circle where images of the art and architecture of the period under consideration are discussed and modes of visual analysis modelled for students. Through questioning and discussion students develop knowledge about the social contexts, styles and practices of the art and architecture of the renaissance and baroque period. Via engagement with primary and secondary sources inside and outside of the classroom, students develop skills in visual analysis. These skills will then be applied in the context of analysing images that have not previously been studied by students in class and also in the context of a field trip to the Nicholson museum and appropriate pieces from the ACU collection.

The small sizes of each class reinforce a more reflective and interactive style of teaching in which students participate in a direct way in their learning process and encourage the development of the Learning Outcomes in each student’s knowledge acquisition.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc.

Off-shore intensive offerings in Rome:

Pre-departure seminars are normally held to introduce students to key contextual information, concepts and readings. Due to the intensive mode of teaching, attendance at pre-departure and off-shore classes, is expected.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessments have been developed in order to inspire good critical practice, develop solid research skills, cultivate oral presentation and communication skills, and to engage the imagination. Students will deliver a presentation accompanied by images of relevant art and architecture to demonstrate their knowledge of unit content and provide them with an opportunity to build on their previous skills to use more sophisticated approaches in visual analysis. Informed by feedback on this first assessment, students will undertake a research essay which functions to give them an opportunity to synthesise a wide variety of research to construct and support an argument, and finally undertake an in-class test which requires them to analyse images of art and architecture that have not been previously seen by students. This type of assessment draws together the knowledge and skills developed through this unit.

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for second year students in the relevant subject area.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Oral presentation on a particular piece(s) of artwork 

Students will deliver a presentation accompanied by images of relevant art and architecture to demonstrate their knowledge of unit content and provide them with an opportunity to use skills in visual analysis


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Research essay  

Students will have the opportunity to research a topic and construct an argument 


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Slide test in which students will analyse works that have not been previously discussed or seen in class to demonstrate their knowledge of the period


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Atkinson, Niall. The Noisy Renaissance : Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life. 2016.

Beltramo, Silvia., Flavia. Cantatore, and Marco. Folin. A Renaissance Architecture of Power: Princely Palaces in the Italian Quattrocento. The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500, Volume 104. 2016.

Bohn, Babette, and James M. Saslow. A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art. 1st ed. Blackwell Companions to Art History. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 

Carl, Klaus and Victoria Charles, Baroque art. New York: Parkstone, 2009

Hickson, Sally. Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua : Matrons, Mystics and Monasteries. Women and Gender in the Early Modern World. London: Routledge, 2016.

Franklin, Waldman Louis Alexander., Butterfield, Franklin, David, Butterfield, Andrew, Leonardo, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and National Gallery of Canada. Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in Florence. Ottawa, Ont. : New Haven: National Gallery of Canada ; Yale University Press, 2005.

Hartt, Frederick, A History of Italian Renaissance Art: painting, sculpture, architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1970

Murray, Linda, The High Renaissance and Mannerism. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991

Murray, Linda and Peter Murray, Art of the renaissance. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993

Vasari, Giorgio. The Lives of the Artists: A Selection. Rev. ed. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1971.

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