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Course tutor: Rembrandt Duits (Deputy Curator, Warburg Institute Photographic Collection)

As a boy, the Basle physician Felix Platter (1536-1614) once got in trouble for loitering at a market stall to admire some biscuit moulds. When recalling the episode in his memoirs, Platter described the carved wooden biscuit moulds as "works of art". The anecdote raises the question: if, around the middle of the sixteenth century, an educated person such as Platter could perceive biscuit moulds as "art", what else could be? This course seeks to formulate an answer. Focussing on the period 1300-1600, it will examine a broad array of material culture (from lowly lead-tin-alloy pilgrims’ badges to lofty gold-brocaded silk fabrics) with properties that, in a literal or metaphorical sense, may have prompted people from different social backgrounds to pause at market stalls in aesthetic admiration. The course will draw on a range of recent art-historical approaches, exploring three tiers of consumers (the poor, professionals, and princes), who each generated their own art market according to their financial means and level of education. It will thus, in an introduction and four thematic sessions, sketch the outlines of a new type of Renaissance art history (or rather parallel and intertwining art histories); it will conclude by showing how the more traditional narrative of Renaissance art – the story of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects that has its origins in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives – fits within the wider "market stall" perspective.

The course will be taught across five x two hour classes online via the zoom platform. Each session will have time for discussion. Reading lists will be made available to registered students.


Monday-Friday, 28 June - 2 July 2021: 15:00-17:00


1. Introduction
E.H. Gombrich ‘The Logic of Vanity Fair. Alternatives to Historicism in the Study of Fashions, Style, and Taste’ in Ideals and Idols. Essays on Values in History and Art (Oxford: Phaidon, 1979), 60-92

2. Mass Production
R. Duits ‘Introduction. Did the Poor have Art?’ in R. Duits (ed.) The Art of the Poor. The Aesthetic Material Culture of the Lower Social Classes in Europe 1300-1600 (London: Bloomsbury, 2020), 1-22

'Did the Poor have Art?' Notes

3. Rarity Value
H. van der Velden ‘Early Netherlandish Art and the Value of the Material World’ and ‘Chapter 3: The assessment of a Reputation’ in The Donor’s Image. Gerard Loyet and the Votive Portraits of Charles the Bold (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 3-8 and 65-77

  • Standard £100
  • Warburg Staff & Fellows/external students/unwaged £90
  • SAS & LAHP students £80
  • Warburg Students £50


image: Bassano Francesco the Younger, Market Scene, 1580-85 (private collection)