Masterclass: Investigating Disegno

Investigating Disegno: Drawing and the Decorative Arts in Italy, c. 1500-1900

This masterclass examines the idea of disegno in relation to the early modern decorative arts by investigating the collection of Italian design drawings in the Rijksmuseum. Meaning both design and drawing, disegno was a fundamental concept in the development of artistic theory in early modern Europe and has been used by critics, connoisseurs and art historians to evaluate and differentiate the works of artists from the Renaissance onwards. In this course, students will explore the role that drawings – disegni – played in the process of creating, producing, marketing and selling the works of art fashioned by goldsmiths, cabinetmakers and other specialized craftsmen.

In five seminars, held at Leiden University and in the Print Rooms of the Rijksmuseum and Teylers Museum, students will become acquainted with the objects of their research and develop their own line of object-based enquiry. Each student will choose one or more drawings from the collection of the Rijksmuseum as a subject for a presentation to be held in Florence and a written paper to be handed in after the end of the class. After five preparatory meetings in Leiden and Amsterdam, students will spend a 2-week visit (15 June – 30 June) researching their final project at the Dutch Interuniversity Institute for Art History (NIKI) in Florence. In Florence, students will use the resources of the NIKI and visit the Uffizi’s Print Room, il Gabinetto dei disegni e delle Stampe. Excursions to local museums and collections will help students understand the collaborative efforts required to create the objects they will study in this course.

Leiden University in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the NIKI, with support of the Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis (OSK).

Learning objectives:

  • To acquire knowledge of Italian decorative arts and drawings as well as their materials and techniques
  • Learn to identify and analyze the role of drawings for the decorative arts
  • Develop and pursue object-based research in an interdisciplinary context
  • To independently handle and study works on paper in print rooms in the Netherlands and Italy
Admission requirements
  • (Re)MA or PhD Candidate
  • Sufficient proficiency in English
  • Passive comprehension (i.e. reading level) of other European languages, ideally Italian and/or French/German.

Participation is limited to 10 students.

16 February 2022, Leiden; 18 February, Amsterdam; 4 March, Amsterdam; 8 April, Haarlem; 6 May, Leiden.
15-30 June 2022, Florence


There is no course fee. All students will be offered housing at the NIKI at €10 per night (rooms are for 2 persons, shared dining room, kitchen, bathrooms and toilets). Students are responsible for booking a flight themselves. Students who are registered with  OSK will be offered a travel grant of €100. The travel grant will be paid after delivering a successful paper and presentation. Make sure to keep your (digital) ticket and proofs of payment, without them the grant cannot be paid. Students are expected to attend all seminars and lectures and prepare any readings in advance.

Students are requested to send a motivation letter (1 x A4 max) and CV to before 29 January.