Symbols and Symbolism in Western Art

Florence University of the Arts - The American University of Florence

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Symbols and Symbolism in Western Art

  • Host University

    Florence University of the Arts - The American University of Florence

  • Location

    Florence, Italy

  • Area of Study

    Art History, Studio Art

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course is divided into three parts. Since religious subject matter dominated Western art up to the end of the seventeenth century, the first part of the course will look at Christian symbolism in art and help students to decipher the visual language of images and objects in religious paintings, sculpture, architecture, and objets d'art. The emphasis will be on Italian art from the medieval and Renaissance periods, whose symbols can range from the straightforward identification of saints by objects they hold, to the more complex messages relating to Christian belief such as the concept of incarnation. The second part of the course will have a more secular focus (with an inevitably strong interconnection with religious symbolism). Through a concentration on Italian ruling families (i.e. the Medici in Florence), students will learn about the importance and significance of emblems (imprese) and symbols adopted by individuals and families during the period of the Italian Renaissance. In conclusion, students will look at the ways through which geometry is used symbolically in art and architecture to communicate a specific belief. With this regard topics feature geometric forms such as the circle, triangle, square, pentagon, and related two and three-dimensional forms such as the cross, spiral, Golden Mean, and Platonic solids. Museums visits integrated to the course include the Uffizi Gallery and the Bargello Museum.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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