The Bible in Art (55+)

The stories of the Bible, along with some from the biblical apocrypha, have been a source of imagery for countless paintings and sculptures by the most gifted European artists of the past 600 years. Examples range from Michelangelo’s decorations for the Sistine Chapel to Donatello’s sculptures of David and Goliath, and from Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden to Raphael’s The Marriage of the Virgin.

We will concern ourselves solely with the art of how these ancient narratives have been illustrated. We’ll explore the context of major works, see why they were created and examine how the artists translated the biblical stories for their own clients and their own times. We’ll begin with Genesis and conclude with the Massacre of the Innocents.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: From Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah

Maitani’s decorations for the façade of the Duomo of Orvieto (c1310-30); Michelangelo’s decorations for the Sistine Chapel (1508-12); Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1425); Brunelleschi’s Sacrifice of Isaac (1401); Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac (c1598); Donatello’s Sacrifice of Isaac (c1418).

Week 2: Jacob, Joseph and Moses

Ghiberti’s panels from the Gates of Paradise (1452); Delacroix’ Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1854-61); Gauguin’s Vision after the Sermon (1888); Pontormo’s Scenes from the Story of Joseph (c1515-18); Rembrandt’s Joseph and Potifar’s Wife (1634) and Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph (1656); Veronese’s The Finding of Moses (several variants, c1570-80); and Michelangelo’s Tomb of Pope Julius II (1505-45).

Week 3: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Biblical Prophets

Raphael’s Judgment of Solomon in the Stanza della Segnatura (1509-11); G.B. Tiepolo’s Judgement of Solomon (1728); Claude Lorraine’s Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648); Piero della Francesca’s Solomon and the Queen of Sheba from the Legend of the True Cross fresco cycle (1447-66); Rubens’ The Prophet Elijah Receiving Bread and Water from an Angel (1628); Ford Madox Brown’s Elijah Restoring the Widow’s Son (1868); Raphael’s Transfiguration (1516-20); Michelangelo’s depictions of Jonah, Joel, Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Sistine Chapel (1509-11).

Week 4: Joshua, David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba

Ghiberti’s panel from the Gates of Paradise (1452); Donatello’s David (two versions, 1408 and c1440s); Caravaggio’s David and Goliath (two versions, c1599 and c1607); Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at Her Toilette (1654); Massys’ David and Bathsheba (1562); Salviati’s Bathsheba Goes to King David (c1553-4).

Week 5: Samson and Delilah, Joachim and Anna, the Virgin Mary

Rembrandt’s Samson and Delilah (1628) and The Blinding of Samson (1636); Guercino’s Samson Captured by the Philistines (1609); Giotto’s decorations for the Scrovegni Chapel (1303-05); Ghirlandaio’s decorations for the Tornabuoni Chapel (1485-90); Perugino’s Marriage of the Virgin (1500-04); Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin (1504); Carpaccio’s Marriage of the Virgin (1504-08).

Week 6: From the Annunciation to the Massacre of the Innocents

Martini’s Annunciation (1333), Grunewald’s Annunciation from the Isenheim Altarpiece (c1510-15); El Greco’s Annunciation (1609); Bruegel’s Numbering at Bethlehem (1566); Reni’s St. Joseph with Infant Christ in his Arms (c1635); Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi (1481); Tintoretto’s The Flight into Egypt (1587); Elsheimer’s The Flight into Egypt (c1609); Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents (1636-38).

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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