Rome and Florence are of paramount importance to those working in the humanities, since most of its disciplines originate in late medieval or early modern Italy, and even postmodernism has some of its most significant roots in Italian intellectual debates. Therefore, Rome and Florence offer an ideal ground to explore the historiography of art history, history and adjacent fields from both a historical and a contemporary perspective. This Minor program, hosted and financed by the Dutch Institutes in Rome and Florence, offers the opportunity to do so to a select group of students from Dutch universities, allowing them to work with a large variety of methodologies in order to understand present-day Italy through its historical developments, as well as stimulating them to critically assess their disciplinary orientation in a profoundly cross-disciplinary context.
What distinguishes this Minor is the on-site teaching, where students are invited to always take into account the first-hand observation of objects, locations, urbanistics and social contexts. In all its courses, students are trained in documenting and analysing visual materials and performative practices in the Roman and Florentine contexts. This Minor is also unique because of the integration of essential skills. First, students acquire a basic proficiency in the Italian language that allows them to read both primary sources and contemporary scholarship. Following an introductory intensive language course, a reading laboratory focuses on the comprehension of relevant source texts in Italian, by means of collaborative translations. Second, skills such as archival research and the use of historical bibliographic material are trained on location during working sessions in historical libraries and archives. All courses have the format of an intense workshop that invites students to actively participate.
The program runs during the first semester, from September till Christmas, starting with a two-months stay in Rome at the KNIR and followed by a two-months stay in Florence at the NIKI. It consists of an introductory Italian language course (in Rome) and four consecutive seminars: two in Rome (Bella Figura: Rome and the Phenomenology of Display and Italian Worlds of Knowledge: Academies, Universities and Courts) and two in Florence (The Discovery of Time: Renaissances and Revolutions and Saints) Heroes: Personality Cults).
All seminars are taught by staff members from Rome, Florence and/or one of the six Dutch universities that participate in financing the Dutch Institutes in Rome and Florence: RUG, UvA, RU, VU, UL and UU. The program is monitored by a group of art historians and historians from these universities.
English and Italian (language training and source reading)
Information will follow.
Target group and admission
The course is open to a maximum of 10 selected 3rd year BA students from KNIR and NIKI partner universities (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Universiteit Leiden, Universiteit Utrecht, Radboud Universiteit, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen). Applicants have obtained a minimum of 90 ECTS by the time of application and 120 ECTS by the time of the start of the program. A committee of art historians and historians from the six Dutch universities affiliated with the KNIR and the NIKI, together with staff members from the two institutes will carry out the selection of candidates.
Course format and assignments
The course is organized by and hosted at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR) and the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence (NIKI). It consists of five intensive seminars of ten days to two weeks each, with lectures, on-site visits and discussions. Active participation of the participants is required. Assignments consist of a language test, translations, oral (on site) presentations and essays. The time in between courses students will dedicate to the reading laboratory and preparatory research or the concluding essay. Description of the four seminars:
1. Bella Figura: Rome and the Phenomenology of Display
Throughout its history, the city of Rome has been a privileged stage for all kinds of display. Politicians, princes, cardinals and popes, as well as artists, architects and collectors: they all felt compelled to display their own persona, their work or their collections in the highly theatrical setting of the Eternal City, reminiscent of glorious memories covering almost all history of mankind. From William Kentridge’s 2016 murals on the Tiber walls and the monuments, museums and collections established from the 18th century till today, to Petrarch’s staging his own coronation as poet laureate on Capitol Hill in 1341 and Mussolini’s project to impress Hitler during his 1943 visit to Italy: the city of Rome almost compulsively inspires what Italians characteristically define as ‘fare bella figura’: keeping up appearances. In this seminar, Italy’s primary role in displaying and exhibiting art and culture in the past will be confronted with its present strategies to connect to international developments in the field.
2. Italian Worlds of Knowledge: Academies, Universities and Courts
With its rich art collections, libraries, design industry, Italy still represents the world of knowledge par excellence. In this course we will explore the what, how and why of the paradigmatic Italian world of knowledge in its heydays. The approach is at the same time diachronic (1400-1700), interdisciplinary (art, science, humanities, economic, politics taken in an integrationist way), as well as participatory and active. This course concentrates on the methods developed to record, deepen and transmit scientific knowledge. It especially focuses on the novelty of artistic and intellectual achievements, by assessing the extent to which these depended on existing theoretical and philosophical premises. The topics to be studied include medieval and early modern medicine and cartography, scientific institutions such as academies, the relation between art and science in the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei, and the globalization of science in the early modern period.
3. The Discovery of Time: Renaissances and Revolutions
Our modern understanding of time as a discontinuous process, with periods of splendour and decay, was invented in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Tuscany, particularly in Florence. It engendered a vision of history that still dominates Western civilization. This concept is based on a dichotomy between Renaissances and Revolutions, classicisms and anti-classicisms, and of modernism and postmodernism. This course addresses these dynamics and its origins, as well as its reflection in historiography and philosophy. As a result, this course aims to critically assess concepts like ‘Renaissance’, ‘Risorgimento’, ‘futurism’ and ‘(trans)avanguardia’, as well as investigating the historical contexts and sites that facilitated the rise of such revolutionary movements. Topics to be studied range from Michelangelo and Machiavelli to early 20th-century futurism and the contemporary art scene and its patrons.
4. Saints and Heroes: Personality Cults
In this seminar we will discuss and research the dynamics of religious and secular personality cults, related concepts such as sacrality or ‘mythification’ and rituals like pilgrimage and processions. The many statues and monuments in Italy and especially Florence – carved, painted or written to remember historical figures from the near or distant past – raise the question how we should understand this manipulation of memory. Which example or message was or is it to convey, and how does that relate to the specific circumstances during which it was created? How strongly propagated was this specific image, and when exactly was it created? Do these representations also evoke other, competing views on historical figures? What can we say about the ‘consumption’ of such myths, and about the ‘agency’ of their audiences to see things differently?
Credits and assessment
This minor comprises 30 ECTS and consists of 6 components: 4 seminars of 6 EC each, one Italian language course of 3 EC, and one final paper of 3 EC (to be written in January, following the stay in Rome and Florence).
Tuition and lodging in Rome and Florence at the KNIR and the NIKI is free for selected participants from the above-mentioned Dutch universities. Personal expenses, including meals, are not included. Students receive a €100 reimbursement of their expenses for travelling to Rome and from Florence after submission of their final essay; also the transportation from Rome to Florence is covered by the two institutes.
Facilities in Rome and Florence
All participants will be housed at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome and the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, respectively. From both institutes it is only a short walk to the historical city centers. The KNIR and NIKI accommodation consists of shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and includes a living and dining space, a kitchen, washing machine and wireless internet.* All residents have 24/7 access to the library and gardens of both institutes.
*The KNIR and NIKI accommodations comply with all safety and health requirements, also in light of COVID-19.