Renaissance Art History Cambridge

Julia Biggs | Freelance Art Historian

Study Days & Courses

Gallery Study Days & Tours

Experience a special, tailor-made, guided tour of a current exhibition, or enjoy a gallery study day, exploring treasures such as those held in the National Gallery and Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum - ideal for individuals, couples and small groups wishing to take in impressive collections at their own pace and learn more. 

Contact Renaissance Art History Cambridge to arrange a private study day/receive booking details.

"Very many thanks for a brilliant and most informative study day at the National Gallery.  It was so interesting and thoroughly enjoyable!"

Courses & Lectures

Private art history study courses or lectures can be delivered by Renaissance Art History Cambridge to suit the interests of both individuals and a particular group, covering a wide range of periods and schools.  Select a topic of your choice for a one-day session or a longer series of talks.  Please see below for a list of sample topics.  For further information send us an email

*At Home in Renaissance Italy

This distance learning course examines the collection and consumption of domestic objects during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It will enter into the Italian palazzo or casa to investigate the rooms fully furnished, seeking to understand the inhabitants and their value systems by studying the material culture of their homes.  The course aims to introduce you to a variety of artworks/objects in context and covers topics such as: money and markets,  banquets and studioli, marriage and childbirth, and women and beauty.                          

"I have found the whole course absorbing & very thought-provoking...thank you."                                            

*Domestic Devotions in Renaissance Italy

This distance learning course will provide a glimpse into the private lives of Renaissance Italians and reveal the rich visual and material culture of devotion that existed in the Renaissance home.  It will consider items such as religious images, prayer-beads and other devotional aids, and seek to understand how such objects actively produced, mediated, and shaped spiritual relationships.  The course also aims to introduce you to a variety of key sources to help you navigate the miraculous creations of the period and the blurred lines between pious goods, curiosity and art.

*The representation of Jews in Renaissance visual culture

This course (which can be broken down into ‘stand-alone’ lectures) will examine anti-Jewish iconography in Christian art and the relationship of such representations to the accusations of ritual murder, host desecration, and image profanation.  We will consider the representation of Jewish figures in Venetian paintings by Bellini, Carpaccio and Mansueti, as well as demonising paintings of Jews in the palaces and churches of Mantua, Ferrara and Urbino.  We will also reflect on the Jewish badge (the 'yellow O') in Italian Renaissance art and the architecture of the Venetian ghetto.  

*Women and art in early modern Italy

This course/lecture series will situate the role of women in Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Italian art, as patrons, consumers, and as producers.  Looking at social standing, family situation and wealth, we will study and move beyond "superwomen" like Isabella d'Este to assess how independent women were when it came to commissioning works of art.  We will then concentrate on the intense connection between iconography and the visions of medieval women mystics who relied on images to inspire visions.  Finally, we will consider works by female artists such as Sofonisba Anguissola, Plautilla Nelli, and Lavinia Fontana, examining their career strategies and the different ways in which they managed to overcome the social and professional restrictions particular to their gender.

*Courtly Magnificence - Art in Renaissance Ferrara

One of the most significant and sophisticated Renaissance courts, Ferrara was ruled by the Este dynasty who, in their desire for refinement and luxury, attracted innovative artists, poets, musicians and scholars to their court.  We will explore some of the most important Este commissions, such as the Salone dei mesi in the Palazzo Schifanoia, covered in allegorical frescoes that reveal how patronage was used as a tool of rulership and diplomacy.   We will also look at the magnificent bible of Borso d'Este, which represents one of the highlights of Italian Renaissance manuscript illumination, and examine the Ferrarese School of painters.

*Renaissance splendours at the Gonzaga court in Mantua 

Ruled by the fast-living Gonzaga dynasty, who brought into being through their patronage some of the finest buildings and works of art of the Renaissance, we will discuss some of the artists, architects and musicians who added to the fame of the court.  Andrea Mantegna's frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi and Giulio Romano's lavish decoration of the Palazzo Te are among the outstanding works we will examine, together with pieces by Pisanello and Peter Paul Rubens.  Incorporating musical compositions by Claudio Monteverdi and Salamone Rossi, this course (or lecture) allows unhindered access to the sights and sounds of court life in Renaissance Mantua.  

*Giotto and the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Giotto's spectacular fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, is regarded as a supreme masterpiece of medieval western art. The lecture touches on key topics such as the patron, Giotto’s workshop practice, the possible meaning of the chapel’s fresco programme, the iconographical significance of the Annunciation fresco, and the artist’s use of humour and symbolism. By understanding the building as a social space we will discover new ways of interpreting the frescoes, which take into consideration matters of audience reception.

*The art of the Early Italian Renaissance

Increase your understanding of Italian art and culture, and explore the historical and social factors that made this period so unique.  The subject can be treated in several ways, focusing on art, architecture, and sculpture in Florence during the 15th century.  We will look at some of the key creative exponents of the Renaissance, including Ghiberti (famed for his Baptistery Doors), Brunelleschi, Donatello and Botticelli (whose paintings reveal the influence of mythical thinking on the Renaissance imagination).  Themes such as the development of the Italian altarpiece (taking account of the painter Piero della Francesca), patronage, and the artist’s workshop (plus materials and techniques) can be examined.