Art in 15th-century Siena

Course Dates: 08/01/25 - 12/02/25
Time: 14:30 - 16:30
Location: Keeley Street
Explore the art, society and geography of 15th century Siena, the picturesque Tuscan republic. Expand your knowledge of the Italian Renaissance beyond the borders of Florence by studying one of its worthy artistic, political and intellectual rivals.
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Full fee £169.00 Senior fee £135.00 Concession £110.00

Art in 15th-century Siena
  • Course Code: VB549
  • Dates: 08/01/25 - 12/02/25
  • Time: 14:30 - 16:30
  • Taught: Wed, Daytime
  • Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Emma Rose Barber

Course Code: VB549

Wed, day, 08 Jan - 12 Feb '25

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Centre for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Siena is a pretty, pink walled town in the Tuscan hills. Its fourteenth-century art by Duccio, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti is legendary. Yet, compared to Florence’s reputation as a Renaissance art centre, the art of 15th-century Siena is less well- known. This course considers why that is and seeks to put the art on the map. We will study panel paintings and frescoes in churches and civic buildings as well as the city’s sculptures, loggias and fascinating pilgrim’s hospital.

We will study artists such as Sassetta, Vecchietta, Il Sodoma, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Domenico Beccafumi, Giovanni di Paolo and Pinturicchio, the Pope’s painter. We will also explore the Sienese altarpiece, sculptures on civic buildings such as the Fonte Gaia and the frescoes inside the Pellegrinaio – the hospital for pilgrims opposite the Cathedral.

We will consider the art in the wider context of the religious and social sphere of Siena and how its geographical location informed and shaped its art. In so doing we will consider the art in its original locations, as well as patron and workshop networks.

We will also ask why the narrative about fifteenth-century Sienese art has long been overshadowed by its better known fourteenth-century canon and indeed its rival city-state – Florence.

The course will also include an online tour of the National Gallery which has recently started to showcase the art of Siena.

What will we cover?

• The relevance and distinctive qualities of Sienese art
• The paintings, frescoes, sculptures and monuments of 15th-century Siena
• The context of Renaissance Siena against the art of its medieval legacy which is so much more famous
• The religious figures associated with Siena and how they are represented in the art of the time.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Discuss the pictorial qualities and style of 15th-century Sienese art and what it contributes to the art of the Italian Renaissance
• Give some reasons why the 15th-century Sienese artists seem to be less celebrated than their 14th-century forbears. And indeed their Florentine contemporaries.
• Give examples of the role that religion played in religious art: the religious preacher – Bernardino Da Siena and his preachings on women and midwives, as well as the images of St Catherine of Siena, the famous medieval saint who helped to break the impasse of the Great Schism.
• Identify key artists and sculptors of Renaissance Siena.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for all levels.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught by lecture with slide images and you will be invited to participate in group discussion. There will be handouts provided by your tutor; these handouts will be available digitally via a Google Classroom. You will be invited to join the Google Classroom within a week of your course start date.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You might wish to purchase a notebook for taking notes. You might wish to buy some of the books on any reading list provided.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You might also be interested in:
Art and identity: from the High Renaissance to the Reformation
Reimagining the Renaissance
Renaissance art: making, locating and viewing.

Emma Rose Barber

Emma Rose Barber is an art historian who has been teaching adults for over 25 years. She specialises in the visual culture of the Middle Ages and the Italian and Northern Renaissance. She has also taught classes on British art and has designed many different courses such as Last Suppers in Florence and Bosch, Breughel and the Surrealists. She has also given lectures on Women and Art. She used to run the history of art department at the British Institute in Florence and works for many institutions such as the Open University, Morley College and the department of continuing education at the University of Oxford. Her book – 111 Churches that you Shouldn’t Miss in London - is coming out in the autumn of 2020. She has spent the last five years with a Mini A-Z looking for churches to write about, many of which can be found on her blog – She is also writing a Cultural History of Wayfaring and writes articles for Selvedge Magazine.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.