Taboo Scenes in Italian Renaissance Art: A Three Part Course with Dr. Cornelia Danielson

Taboo Scenes in Italian Renaissance Art: A Three Part Course with Dr. Cornelia Danielson


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Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.

Nudity, prostitution, and erotic art have long been considered taboo topics in polite conversation. But these scandalous topics play an integral role in human society and psychology, particularly during the Italian Renaissance era. 

So many hypocrisies and questions surround these illicit affairs. Why was nudity encouraged and then banned by the Church? Why was erotic art tolerated in papal Rome, even within the pope’s own palace? How did legalized prostitution in Venice contribute to the creation of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto’s most beautiful paintings? This three-part course will contextualize and explore these themes – and more – through the eyes of Italy's renowned Renaissance artists. 

Led by Cornelia Danielson, an expert in 15th and 16th Italian art, these conversations aim to investigate the supply and demand for nudity and eroticism in the art of the Renaissance. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the untold reasons behind the creation, and sometimes the censorship, of some of the Renaissance’s most important works.

Lecture 1 – Nudity in the Renaissance: The Bare Bones of the Story

Nudity in 15th and 16th-century Italian art has as much to do with the rediscovery of the art and literature of Ancient Greece and Rome as it did with the teachings of the Church. From Masaccio’s naked Christ child in the Uffizi's “Madonna, Child, and St. Anne” altarpiece to the scantily clad three Graces in Botticelli’s “Primavera “, from dressing Michelangelo’s "David" to Ammanati’s remorse over having created the giant nude of the Neptune Fountain, this lecture explores attitudes towards permissiveness and censorship of nudity in the Renaissance.

Lecture 2 – Art and Pleasure in Papal Rome: Peeking Around in the Palace

From Raphael’s decoration of Agostino Chigi’s pleasure villa on the banks of the Tiber to Cardinal Bibbiena’s bathroom in the Vatican Palace (now kept behind a carefully locked door), this lecture describes how Raphael and his talented workshop, inspired by the erotic art and literature of Antiquity, created images of passion and pleasure in the 16th century papal Rome.

Lecture 3 – Pin-Ups and Prostitutes in Renaissance Venice

While Church and State were important patrons of art in Renaissance Venice so, too, were prostitutes who made up 8% of the population. This lecture explores their story and the suggestive art that was created for them and for a clientele of noblemen by some of Venice’s leading painters.

Cornelia has a PhD in art history from Columbia University and wrote her dissertation on Renaissance city planning. She is especially knowledgeable about Medici patronage.

How does it work?

This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided by your moderator at the course's conclusion.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $105 for three lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

Not suitable for children under age 13 (sensitive content).

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
83%
(5)
17%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff (Western Springs, US)
Fascinating Presentation on the Taboo in Renaissance Art

I've been an amateur student of Renaissance Art since college; and I was delighted to find out how much there was yet to learn from Cornelia. She really put the art of the period into a cultural context.

A
Andy Wilson (Silver Spring, US)
I Always Wondered, Now I Know

Dr. Danielson’s fascinating course provides the answers to all those questions we might have about nudity and sex in Italian Renaissance art. It gives us more than a glimpse into the lives and mindsets of the artists, patrons, Popes and Courtesans of the era. Engaging and thorough.

H
Howard Chabner (San Francisco, US)
I don't have a title

Fascinating and insightful exploration of the depiction of sexuality in Renaissance art. The slides were terrific and illustrated her points well. She also used the topic as an effective way in to describe the social and cultural milieu, and the personal lives of important Renaissance figures – popes, cardinals, artists, writers, courtesans. Also, Cornelia described sexual and anatomical matters with tact and discretion, and yet without pulling punches or omitting anything important – she walked a fine line perfectly. Also,the fact that she is a longtime resident of Italy means that she is personally familiar with the paintings and sculptures she discusses. It's clear that she has seen them many times, not just on an occasional trip or through books. This showed in her lectures.

A
Andy Wilson (Kensington, US)
Explains a lot

I’ve long wondered why all the nudity and sexual imagery in all those old paintings from the stodgy past. This seminar explains a lot. Dr. Danielson does so in a professional and entertaining manner.

E
Edie Tashma (St Louis, US)
VERY INFORMATIVE

Very clearly presented with excellent visuals.

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
83%
(5)
17%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
C
Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff (Western Springs, US)
Fascinating Presentation on the Taboo in Renaissance Art

I've been an amateur student of Renaissance Art since college; and I was delighted to find out how much there was yet to learn from Cornelia. She really put the art of the period into a cultural context.

A
Andy Wilson (Silver Spring, US)
I Always Wondered, Now I Know

Dr. Danielson’s fascinating course provides the answers to all those questions we might have about nudity and sex in Italian Renaissance art. It gives us more than a glimpse into the lives and mindsets of the artists, patrons, Popes and Courtesans of the era. Engaging and thorough.

H
Howard Chabner (San Francisco, US)
I don't have a title

Fascinating and insightful exploration of the depiction of sexuality in Renaissance art. The slides were terrific and illustrated her points well. She also used the topic as an effective way in to describe the social and cultural milieu, and the personal lives of important Renaissance figures – popes, cardinals, artists, writers, courtesans. Also, Cornelia described sexual and anatomical matters with tact and discretion, and yet without pulling punches or omitting anything important – she walked a fine line perfectly. Also,the fact that she is a longtime resident of Italy means that she is personally familiar with the paintings and sculptures she discusses. It's clear that she has seen them many times, not just on an occasional trip or through books. This showed in her lectures.

A
Andy Wilson (Kensington, US)
Explains a lot

I’ve long wondered why all the nudity and sexual imagery in all those old paintings from the stodgy past. This seminar explains a lot. Dr. Danielson does so in a professional and entertaining manner.

E
Edie Tashma (St Louis, US)
VERY INFORMATIVE

Very clearly presented with excellent visuals.