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Three things have characterized this term and our class:  (1) we have been looking broadly at Italian Renaissance art and the visual culture early modern Italy; (2) we have regularly talked about current events, their importance in our lives, and their connections—from specific to general— to an understanding and interpretation of art and its history in that particular period; and (3) you have composed written reflections on topics of your choosing inspired by course materials and discussions. The thread that links all three of these is the idea that art, even of the Renaissance past, is a connecting reality in the human experience and that all interpretations of art are not universal and timeless but context-specific and conditioned by current realities, events, attitudes, and perspectives.  Your final examination builds these three features of our course

Your assignment is to compose an essay around a theme or argument of your own choosing that introduces and is structured around a single work of Italian Renaissance art and invites the reader to consider and deepen understanding of that work in relation to a contemporary issue, development, controversy, event, reality, theory, or perspective (contemporary, that meaning contemporary to 2024). This assignment must have a primary focus on the work of art and include a visual description and the basic facts of the work: fundamentally the who, what, where, when, and how of its making and initial historical appearance. Much as characterized your written reflections, your final exam essay should have a discernible subject/definite theme (in this case, your chosen work of art and the specific point or thesis you are developing about it), and it should have an introductory paragraph, developing paragraphs, and a conclusion. Most importantly, your essay needs to read as something well beyond simply a dry assemblage of facts about a work of art—in other words, not a purely factual report—, but it should impress the reader as an essay that is about a work of art as seen and understood through the interpretive, informing perspective of an idea that you have about that work or a way of seeing that work in an innovative, eye-opening way in relation to, again, current realities, events, attitudes, and perspectives.

I would suggest that you approach this essay in one of two ways:  Either (1) choose a work of Italian Renaissance art that intrigues you and you’d like to deepen that intrigue by connecting it to a current reality, event, attitude, or perspective; or (2) identify a current reality, event, attitude, or perspective that interests, animates, perplexes, or even angers you and select an Italian work based on that intrigue. Pick the approach that suites you best and gives you a novel way—that really interests and excites you!—for introducing, developing, and driving home a point about your work.

I’d like you to think of your final exam essay in this way:  On the one hand, you want to be really invested in an idea and your creative connecting of that idea to a work of art to the extent that your reader comes away from your essay saying something like “Wow, that was really interesting; I never would have thought about that work of Renaissance art in that particular and interesting way!”; On the other hand, in 10, 20, 50, or 70 years from now, think about looking back to your final essay for this course as an interesting, telling artifact of the fact that you took this course in 2022 and that a particular subject was deeply on your mind at that time. Have creative, intellectual fun with this. Your essay can take a form that ranges anywhere from the serious to the comedic; the important thing is that you guide your reader into both seeing visually and understanding intellectually, in a novel way, the work of art you have chosen.

Specific Requirements

Your essay should:

be submitted to the class Isidore site by the end of our official examination period, May 1 by 12:00 p.m.

have a title, followed by a one-sentence summary that indicates the work of art you are writing about, the theme you are addressing, and the point you are making.

contain an image of your work of art that immediately follows your title and the aforementioned one-sentence summary.

  • after its title and summary sentence, start with an introduction, followed by a set of body paragraphs and a conclusion.
  • Note:  a good conclusion should be more than merely a summary of what you have just written; it should move the topic you have been discussing to another level, or point of consideration or importance.  In other words, give your reader something really to ponder in your conclusion, not just a dry, uninformative re-stated return to what you have already written.
  • be written not to me, as your professor, or in the first person; rather, it should be written in a style much like you would read in a magazine or journal for a general audience unknown to the reader; absolutely do not spend your introduction going over your journey of thought toward your subject.  That just wastes valuable time, space, and your reader’s attention.  Your journey to the topic is not what is interesting or important; what you have to say, both directly and evocatively, about your subject is what really matters to a reader who is going to interested in (a) your subject; and (b) what your particular idea is about your subject.