Iconography and iconology: secrets of the old masters revealed

Course Dates: 27/01/20 - 30/03/20
Time: 18:00 - 20:10
Location: KS - Keeley Street

Ever wondered whether there’s a hidden meaning behind paintings? Discover why there are signs and symbols in paintings and how to find and interpret their meanings, in paintings from medieval to Baroque and beyond.


What is the course about?

What do all the strange signs and symbols in the paintings mean, and what is this fascination with Greek mythology all about? If it all seems impenetrable to you, and you like to find out what paintings really mean, this is the course for you. It will give you the tools to crack the hidden codes behind paintings in any art gallery, and indentify the seemingly mysterious figures in great works of art. This course aims to look at the stories which are often re-told in secular and religious Italian Renaissance painting around, 1400-1600. Most often the stories came from antique literary sources which had survived through the middle ages and were the preserve of the rich and cultured.

What will we cover?

In order to unravel the pictorial content of paintings produced during the Italian Renaissance, the viewer needs to have some working knowledge of mythology. We will recognise the stories by interpreting signs and symbols, also known as the iconography and iconology, as well as recognising ‘types’ in the paining. Why were these subjects so popular? Were paintings merely illustrations of the text or did they carry some deeper meaning? How did artists such as Botticelli, Pintoricchio, Titian and Tintoretto approach these subjects? From mythology to religious art, all will be revealed.

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

- State the major motivations of the patrons who commissioned the artists
- Relate in terms of chronology, the span of the period
- Identify different signs and symbols in paintings
- Differentiate between Gods, Goddesses and personifications
- Identify Gods, Goddesses and personification by their attributes
- Participate in discussions about a single painting from an iconographical point of view.

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

This is an introductory course and does not assume any previous study or reading, but you will need a good grasp of English to keep up. You will gain more from the course if you are able and willing to do some supplementary reading. As with most of our history and current affairs courses, an open mind and a willingness to listen to and think about views with which you do not always agree are more important than specific levels of skills.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.

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

The course will be classroom-based and will be taught in a seminar format, with the use of slides and handouts. There will also be a museum visit. Making your own further museum visits, and reading outside the course, will greatly enhance your experience.

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

Limited book purchase recommended but optional; a bibliography will be provided.
Please note we are unable to guarantee stools in the galleries that we visit so you might have to stand and to walk between objects.

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

You might also be interested in:
VB131 - Italian Renaissance drawing: design, form and function
VB427 - The rise and fall of the Italian Renaissance.

Tutor Biographies
Leslie Primo

Leslie Primo has spent more than 15 years giving lectures to the general public at the National Gallery for the Information and Education departments. During this time he graduated with a degree in History of Art and an MA in Renaissance Studies from Birkbeck, University College of London. In his studies he specialised in early Medieval and Renaissance studies, including, Italian Renaissance Drawing, Art and Architecture in Europe 1250-1400 Art and Architecture in Europe 1400-1500, Medici and Patronage, Narrative Painting in the Age of Giotto, and the work of Peter Paul Rubens focusing on his paintings of the Judgement of Paris, and Greek Myth in paintings. He is also an accredited Art Society lecturer.

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.

Book your place

Course Code: VB129

Mon, eve, 27 Jan - 30 Mar '20

Duration: 10 sessions (over 10 weeks)

Full fee: £249.00
Senior fee: £249.00
Concession: £152.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

Download form & post

Any questions? humanities@citylit.ac.uk
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.