Questions of Pictorial Genres between the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Portrait in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Period of duration of course
Course info
Number of course hours
Number of hours of lecturers of reference
Number of hours of supplementary teaching

Type of exam



View lecturer details


No prerequisites are required. The course is aimed primarily at undergraduate students, but is also open to PhD students.


The course will focus on portrait painting in eighteenth-century Europe and will present the second stage of a two-year syllabus on Baroque portraiture, which began in the academic year 2020-2021 dealing with the seventeenth century. The lessons will take place from the last week of November 2021 to the end of February 2022 and will aim to introduce students to some of the great protagonists of this artistic genre, from Carlo Maratti to Pompeo Batoni, and from François Boucher to Joshua Reynolds, with emphasis on both their portrait production and its contextualization within their heterogeneous pictorial activity. Although the course intends to deal with the themes with a monographic approach (that is, artist after artist), transversal issues will not be neglected, especially when in continuity with last year's course, such as the persistence of certain types of portraits during the 18th century (for the Pope, cardinals, etc.) and the birth of new series (e.g. for the travellers on the Grand Tour), the importance of local artistic traditions (Venice, Naples, Milan, etc.), the continuity of techniques (pastels), the variations in format, and specific insights into, for example, the fortunes of caricatures. No less attention will be paid to the diffusion of certain portraits in print, to the diversification of the functions of this pictorial genre over the course of the century and their conditions of display, and above all to the dialogue with the great models of the seventeenth century and Antiquity.

Though this course is planned as a unit in itself, it is highly recommended to attend the lessons – intended primarily for PhD students – on the German Perspectives on Italian Art: Winckelmann, Goethe, Burckhardt, which will take place in spring 2022 and which, with a more theoretical approach, will focus on some of the mechanisms (creative and receptive) of the pictorial 'genres' on the threshold of modernity.

The course will be complemented by a series of seminars held by Italian and foreign scholars who have dealt with related themes and works, but also (if possible) by some field trips (outside the class schedule).

Educational aims

The aim of the course is to increase students’ historical and artistic knowledge and to bring them closer to some of the key themes of early modern age painting, accustoming them to tackle the issues according to a broad geographic development. Off-site lessons should allow students to approach the works de visu, to learn to value them in their context, both original and in the museum. At the end, the students will be required to give a seminar (between May and September), choosing topics related to the lessons and previously validated by the professor, to evaluate the terms in which they understood not only the course contents, but above all the proposed study methodology.

Bibliographical references

  • E. Castelnuovo, Ritratto e società in Italia, dal Medioevo all’avanguardia, Torino, Einaudi 2015
  • É. Pommier, Il ritratto. Storia e teorie dal Rinascimento all’Età dei lumi (ed. originale Théories du portrait. De la Renaissance aux Lumières, 1998), Torino, Einaudi 2003

Further bibliographical advice will be provided during the lessons.