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Late Medieval and Northern Renaissance Art: Morality, Profanity and the Macabre

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.

Available Dates:

This course is currently not being offered in the academic year 2015 - 2016.

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This course explores late Medieval and Northern Renaissance art and will focus on the work of specific artists within historical, social and cultural contexts. It aims to provide an introduction to images that are macabre in nature and exhibit both profane imagery and moral values. It will examine (among others) the work of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Bruegel and Hans Holbein, and will include sessions on portrayals of witches, demons, devils and illustrations of hell in religious art.

Course schedule

Week 1


Module overview with a group exercise and assignment brief

Week 2

Seven Deadly Sins: part 1

This class explores the recurring theme of the Seven Deadly Sins by examining the work of Hieronymus Bosh, Peter Breugel and their contemporaries.

Week 3

Seven Deadly Sins: part 2

Week 4

Representations of Death

This session concentrates on the personification of death, with particular reference to Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death (1538) and Cadaver tombs

Week 5

Moral Messages and Warnings

This week we will concentrate on images that display moral messages and cautions with regard to the evils of drink and folly (as represented by jesters), for example woodcuts and prints by Erhard Schön and Hans Sebald Beham

Week 6

Women: stereotypes and misogyny

This class focuses on the representation of women and how stereotypical references enhanced misogynistic compositions

Week 7


This week will look exclusively at the representation of witches examining the work of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien, in relation to the published book the Malleus Maleficarum (Witches Hammer) of 1487

Week 8

Religious themes including the Last Judgement

This session explores religious subjects that include depictions of demons and devils, for example The Last Judgement traditionally offers the viewer horrific scenes of the devil, the hell mouth and the damned

Week 9

Profane art

This class considers profane subjects within a scared environment such as misericord carvings and church sculpture. Woodcuts, prints and paintings will also offer a variety of examples for interpretation

Week 10

Module recap

Who is this course for?

Anyone with an interest in the topic. No previous knowledge is assumed.

Learning and Teaching

There will be a mixture of short lectures and discussion, the precise proportion to be determined by the needs of the students enrolled. Also we will discuss examples and case-studies. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the ideas and concepts discussed in the course. Intellectual skills will be encouraged through participation in class discussion, reading and coursework.

Coursework and Assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work (at the tutor’s discretion, part of the assessment may be by a presentation):


3 short written assignments (1500 words in total): you will choose three artefacts and interpret and critically evaluate each. These will be written using formal academic language with accurate and consistent referencing.


Essay (1500 words): you will choose a topic covered during the module. This could include an analysis of a specific period or a particular emperor. This will demonstrate your skills at identifying, interpreting and evaluating the material discussed. This will be written using formal academic language, in an essay structure with accurate and consistent referencing.

Reading suggestions

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on

(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site or in Choices.  This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.