Angels and ambition: art of the Italian Renaissance

Explore the lives and works of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance

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Course outline

Art was very much part of the fabric of public and private life in the Italian Renaissance. This course will consider how painting, sculpture and architecture was used to exert power and influence, aid prayer and reflect private ambitions. Our examination of art will be embedded in the socio-political context of the time, considering patrons, motivation, and audiences.

Discussions will cover the great masters of the Italian Renaissance such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Donatello, and Bellini among many others. We will examine their art in context, consider the patrons for whom they worked, their motivations and audiences. Different settings required different approaches, from the quiet sanctity of Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the San Marco monastery to the grand pomposity of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.

We will also travel between Florence, Venice and Rome to compare how cities used art to aggrandise themselves, and proclaim their status to their citizens and rivals. We will look at how architecture and public sculpture was used to great effect, such as Ghiberti’s famed Baptistry doors and Michelangelo’s David in Florence. Power struggles and displays of piety were not only the domain of city states, but also played out through powerful families and private citizens. Ambitious patrons commissioned portraits to proclaim their status, and family chapels sought immortality for future generations.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course, participants will be: familiar with the key themes and major artists of the Italian Renaissance able to identify and differentiate major artists of this period demonstrate the ability to critically analyse artworks in the social and political context in which they were produced

Who should attend?

This course is designed for anyone interested in art history and those particularly interested in the Italian Renaissance. No prior knowledge is necessary.


  • 7 x Tuesday 10:00AM - 12:00 PM, 4 August – 15 September
  • $245.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Linda Yang

Seminar presenter

Linda Yang

Linda Yang

Professional Teaching Fellowship

Linda Yang completed a Professional Teaching Fellowship in Art History at the University of Auckland, where she previously attained her Masters in Art History. Linda has also completed an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and was an Educator at the Auckland Art Gallery.

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