AHST 371: Leonardo da Vinci: Artist, Genius and Scientist

Instructor: Adrian Hoch, Ph. D.
Credits: 4
Course/Lab Fee: 250 € for museum visits and travel (course reader fee announced by the Print Shop)
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Art History

Course Description

This course is a detailed study of the drawings, paintings and writings on art of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). It examines Leonardo’s development as a draftsman and as a painter, focusing on his theories in relation to his working methods, and then explores how he became the most inventive Italian Renaissance artist active in the late 15th century Florence and beyond. Particular attention will concentrate on Leonardo’s innovations in portraiture and landscape, the contrasts between the role of the artist in the Republic of Florence versus the court society of the Duchy of Milan, and his idealistic approach to sculpture. This course will include field trips to Florence and Milan.


Course Objectives

The aim is to introduce the student to the art and thought of Leonardo da Vinci and to enable him or her to understand and appreciate the universality of his genius. These goals can be achieved through an analysis of his writings in conjunction with the works of art Leonardo actually created. Furthermore, Leonardo’s technical experiments in painting and superb preparatory drawings specifically help to demonstrate the overall high intellectual level of his artistic commissions.


Course Materials

Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci, revised and introduced by Martin Kemp, 1993

Course packet:

Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, 6th edition, 2007
John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Radke, Art in Renaissance Italy, 1st edition, 1997
Giorgio Vasari, “Life of Leonardo da Vinci”, in The Lives of the Artists, translated by Julia C. Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, Oxford ed., 1998

Mandatory course reader.


Field Trip

Students will take an overnight trip to experience da Vinci’s great works in person. In Florence, the class will visit the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio. In Milan, they will see the Last Supper at the Cenacolo of Grazie, Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Castello Sforzesco, the Milan duomo, and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.