Minor Italian Art and History (next edition: first semester 2024-2025)

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.

The Minor program Italian Art & History, 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 analyzing visual materials and performative practices in the Roman and Florentine contexts.

This Minor is also unique because of the integration of essential skills. 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. All courses have the format of an intense seminar that invites students to actively participate.

The program runs during the first semester. From Late August until Christmas, students will stay for two months in Rome at the KNIR and two months in Florence at the NIKI. The Minor is concluded with a final essay written in January under the supervision of one of the teachers.

Teaching staff
All courses are taught by staff members of the two institutes and by historians and art historians of the KNIR and NIKI partner universities in the Netherlands: RUG, UvA, RU, VU, UL and UU.

Language
English and Italian (language training and source reading)

Course 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 (University of Amsterdam, Free University of Amsterdam, University of Leiden, University of Utrecht, Radboud University, University of 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. Please note that an online interview with the selection committee will be part of the selection procedure. This interview will take place around the middle of May.

Course format and assignments
The Minor 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 courses of two or three weeks each, with lectures, seminars, and on-site visits. Active participation is required. Assignments consist of a language test, translations, oral (on site) presentations and essays or written exams.

Description of the five courses

Italian Language: Reading Practicum
The goal of this course is to provide the student with the necessary tools to comprehend and analyse Italian texts, with particular focus on (art) historical literature. Through the active reading of specific texts, the student will learn the basic notions of Italian grammar, how to use a dictionary, and how to decipher the meaning of a text. Although specifically designed to target reading skills, this course will also enhance listening, and writing. These skills are engaged by various types of material, including digital format, with which the students can also practice independently. Italian grammar will be explained and practiced during the morning sessions. In the afternoon sessions, reading assignments will give students the opportunity to individuate in the texts certain issues of grammar discussed in class, analyse how sentence structure works and expand the essential vocabulary knowledge, all necessary ingredients to understanding written Italian.

Fascism and anti-fascism in Rome: history, legacy, and cultural memories
This course aims to critically assess the material and symbolic legacy of fascism and anti-fascism today by questioning the complex dynamics among power, ideology and culture that are displayed in the urban space. Fascism represents the most dramatic political innovation of the 20th century and its legacy, largely visible in Rome, is an object of heated debate. However, there is also another Rome, rebellious and untamed, which has resisted oppression and despotism leaving its traces both in the memoryscape and in artistic activism. Combining (art) history, heritage, and memory studies, the course intends to explore to what extent urban planning, architecture, cultural and artistic production concur(red) in mediating fascist ideology or continue to counteract it. Topics to be studied are the history of (anti-)fascism, futurism, fascist and colonial heritage, institutionalized memories, cultural memories and practices of far-right/left activism.

Artists in Residence in Rome (1500-2000)
For centuries a sojourn in Rome was considered an essential part of artistic training. Alone or in small groups, burgeoning artists came from all over Europe and the Americas to study, measure, and copy the works of the antique and Renaissance masters. Some became members of the (international) academies, while others organized themselves in communities, entered established workshops, or worked for private patrons in Rome or their homeland. In this course, we delve into questions such as what moved these artists to come to Rome, what they did once there, and how their stay in the Eternal City influenced their works. Approaching these questions, we will discover the newcomers in Rome; from Jan van Scorel and Angelika Kaufmann, to Escher and beyond.

The Invention of Time: The Renaissance, Ideas and Images of Periodization
The historical thinking of our own times is still embedded in a framework that was developed in the period we now call the Renaissance, which is usually considered to be the initial phase of Modernity. This thinking implies constituent concepts such as discontinuity and recycling, classicism and decay and it approaches time not as merely chronology, but as a system of periods with cultural characteristics that have their place in a larger framework of civilisation. As such it was a new way to approach past and present. For this reason we can speak of the Invention of Time. The stay at the NIKI in Florence opens for that reason with a course dedicated to the conceptualisation and visualisation of time and history, a subject that brings us to the general idea of Renaissance, tied as it is with the city of Florence, as well as to the art and literature produced in that place and period.

Capitalizing Culture. Tuscan, Italian and international conceptions of Florence, ca. 15th-21st centuries
Throughout its history, the city of Florence has time and again prided itself on its supposed primacy in matters of art and culture. This conception as ‘capital of the arts’ has played an important role in legitimizing its political power and ‘cultural hegemony’ towards other cities, states or ‘civilisations’, in a Tuscan, Italian, European and even global perspective. This discursive tradition includes not only Florentine self-images, but also representations by foreign observers. Both perspectives have decisively contributed to how we see and experience Florence today. In this course the imagery and (visual) rhetoric of fiorentinità will be critically assessed by means of monuments, works of art and architecture throughout the city (and beyond), dating from the late Florentine Republic and Habsburg-Lorraine, the nineteenth-century, the fascist ventennio, the post-WWII period and today’s marketing strategies for mass tourism.

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).

Costs
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 (or €125 in case you travel by train) 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.

More info
E-mail: secretary@knir.it
Phone: (+39)063269621