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Renaissance art reconsidered

This is not simply another module on Renaissance art. It questions the traditional geographical and social boundaries of this subject – one of the most traditional in the art history discipline – in line with contemporary developments in academic research. Instead of focusing on the Italian peninsula and Florence in particular (as has been the tendency for most histories of Renaissance art c.1420-1520), this module ventures to England, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Crete. It includes art forms such as prints, tapestries, manuscripts, painting, sculpture and architecture, centred around three main themes: Making Renaissance Art; Locating Renaissance Art; and Viewing Renaissance Art.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.

3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

The module is presented through three module books, a DVD-ROM and three DVDs. Each module book has its own distinct focus on the how, where and who of Renaissance art. The DVD-ROM is linked particularly to Book 1 through its analysis of how works of art in the Renaissance were actually made. The three DVDs include films that complement and amplify the themes and issues covered in all the module books. Each DVD contains filming commissioned by the OU, film from other providers, and archival film.

Book 1: Making Renaissance Art 
This includes seven essays on the production of art. These essays are designed to encourage your direct engagement with drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture and print-making. Through the examination of works of art made in Italy and countries north of the Alps, you'll address practical issues of art production. You'll also discuss themes long associated with the Renaissance such as change and continuity; the relative balance of theory and practice; the revival of interest in antique art and architecture; and the imitation of nature. Essays deal specifically with drawing and its role in workshop training and design; mathematical perspective – its significance and alternatives; sculpture north and south of the Alps; the practice and theory of architecture; Gothic and Renaissance altarpieces; and the production of prints. The last chapter of the book examines the proliferation of artistic treatises and biographical writings about Renaissance artists.

Book 2: Locating Renaissance Art
This book departs radically from the traditional view of Florence as the origin and centre of the Renaissance, though the city serves as a foil for some of the case studies. All the essays extend the geographical boundaries of Renaissance art. Topics include studies of Florentine artists working in their home city and in Rome; the export of Netherlandish painting; the international trade in tapestries; Siena as a Renaissance artistic centre; a study of the post-Byzantine Cretan painter Angelos; Venice and its relationship with its trading partners; and the peripatetic career of the architect Bramante.

Book 3: Viewing Renaissance Art
The final book deals with the consumption of Renaissance works of art. This volume focuses on the values, priorities and motives of patrons and the purposes and functions of artworks. The seven essays consider very different kinds of patrons and consumers: from individuals to secular and religious institutions. The essays also consider a variety of themes such as conspicuous consumption and self-fashioning. Studies of a wide range of social patronage are included, together with chapters specifically on manuscript production; French art; the market for Cretan icons; art associated with the rituals and beliefs connected with death; and Holbein and the Reformation.

You will learn

You will learn about the art-historical period traditionally known as the Renaissance (c.1420–c.1520) and develop a systematic and critical knowledge and understanding of some key aspects of Renaissance art within and beyond the confines of Italy. You will obtain an awareness of current thinking and developments in relation to some key issues of the study of Renaissance art. In line with contemporary art-historical study, you will also broaden your knowledge of the discipline to include media not traditionally classed as fine art: illuminated manuscripts, tapestries and prints.

The project (independent essay) that completes the module will enable you to reassess the period through an in-depth study of a self-chosen topic relating to the themes of the module. You do not need to have a topic in mind before you start the module. You will receive help and advice on choosing a topic at various stages of the module.

Through the use of video and ICT you will learn how to analyse and interpret works of art (architecture, sculpture, painting, etc.) in their immediate physical context. You will also explore complex works of three-dimensional art (architecture, sculpture, cities) that cannot be properly represented within the limits of a few illustrations.

Vocational relevance

The module has no specific vocational relevance, but could form a valuable part of an art-historical training that encourages the development of critical analysis and visual discrimination. You will also be expected to write a long essay that demonstrates your ability to find and organise material and communicate your research and conclusions effectively.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.  

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

The end-of-module assessment (EMA) is a project that must be submitted online. 

You will be assessed on all three module book topics by means of a multi-part tutor-marked assignment (TMA). Each TMA is double weighted, i.e. the equivalent of two conventional TMAs. In addition to these three TMAs, you will be required to submit a project proposal, and an end-of-module assessment project that will be the examinable component. For the end-of-module assessment project (the independent essay), you’ll need to have first hand access to at least one work of art of your own choice that is central or closely relevant to your independent essay subject. This work need not be in an art gallery; it could be in a stately home, a church or cathedral, or a building in your local area.

Future availability

Renaissance art reconsidered starts once a year –  in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018 which is the last time we expect it to start.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Essential Documents website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module and as such it builds on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. OU level 3 modules are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject and have already acquired the skills appropriate for this level, such as analytical thinking and essay writing. 

    You are not expected to have any particular knowledge of Renaissance art, but some experience of studying art history at undergraduate level would be very advantageous. If you have no such experience we advise you to study a OU level 2 art history module, Exploring art and visual culture (A226), before embarking on this OU level 3 module.

    If you would like more information about this module visit the AA315 website.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    Any means of familiarising yourself with the art of the period will stand you in good stead. In particular, try to spend some time in an art gallery with a reasonable range of Renaissance art works. You might also want to look at the set books, although you are not expected to have read them before you start the module. For those who would like to do some preliminary reading on the art of northern Europe we also recommend Jeffrey Chipps Smith, The Northern Renaissance, Phaidon, 2004, which was a set book until the publication of Nash. You are not required to purchase this book, however.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Oct 2018 Jun 2019 £2928.00

    Registration closes 13/09/18 (places subject to availability)

    October 2018 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 16/07/2018.

    What's included

    Module books, other printed materials, a DVD-ROM, DVDs, audio CDs, website.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided from a hardware device e.g. DVD drive or USB stick or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher.

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Welch, E.S. Art in Renaissance Italy, 1350-1500 Oxford University Press £18.99 - ISBN 9780192842794
    • Nash, S. Northern Renaissance Art Oxford University Press £19.99 - ISBN 9780192842695
    • Richardson, C.M., Woods, K.W. & Franklin, M.W. (eds) Renaissance Art Reconsidered: An Anthology of Primary Sources Wiley-Blackwell £31.99 - ISBN 9781405146418
    • Dunkerton, J. Giotto to Durer Yale University Press £20.00 - ISBN 9780300050820

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying AA315 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Overcoming barriers to study if you have a disability or health condition website.