Rome: Art, Architecture and Urbanism from Antiquity to the Baroque

A seminar on the art, architecture, and urbanism of Rome where the layering of material artifacts from successive historical periods provides an uninterrupted record of more than two thousand years. Development of the urban site establishes a continuous framework and contextualizes the cultural, artistic, and political aspirations and values of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque city.

The course has lectures on selected topics by the professor (both asynchronous and synchronous), prepared discussions, and student reports on their research. Some lectures are organized around historic spectacles – the Emperor Augustus’ funeral (14 A.D.), Constantine the Great’s triumphal procession (312 A.D.), and the consecration of New St. Peter’s (1626) – imagined as walks through Rome highlighting the city’s evolving cultural and urban character. Other lectures and lecture/discussions consider a single topic in depth, such as Vitruvius’ theory of design, or a single building, such as Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. The first half of the course covers Antiquity to the Renaissance while the second looks in greater detail at specific Renaissance and Baroque projects. Topics in the first part include the growth and decline of the ancient Roman city, the creation of new architectural forms and urban meanings in response to the Christianization of Empire, and competing theories of beauty. The second part focuses on the style and meaning of those works of art, architecture, and urbanism which distinguish Rome today such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Bramante’s design for New St. Peter’s, and Bernini’s architecture and sculpture for the rebuilt basilica.  

Course Structure: The structure is that of a “flipped” course where students are responsible for learning the materials provided on Canvas and class meetings are devoted to their discussion. Two or three lectures of one hour each are posted on the course site for each week: students watch these at their convenience. There are also assigned readings. Each week you will submit a thought, observation, or question (just a few sentences, not a full response) based on the lectures and reading: these are the basis for class discussion. In weeks 1 through 9, class will meet in person for discussion and short lectures on special topics. In weeks 10, 11 and 12 students will present their research in reports of about ½ hour (depending on class enrollment).