English Art and Architecture 1500-1700 (Art History special study)

Module co-ordinator: TBA
Winter Term (15 units)

Aims of the module

The module provides an historical and cultural overview of the art and architecture of sixteenth and seventeenth century England from the Henrician to the Caroline renaissances, and the development of the distinctively English version of the baroque idiom that followed between the Restoration and the Hanoverian Succession.  Students should acquire an understanding of the uses of visual imagery to fashion identity and express political ideology in 16th and 17th century England, and an appreciation of the complexities of iconographical allusion and symbolic meaning conveyed through ‘reading’ representation, style and emblematic content in the art and architecture associated with the élite cultures of the Tudor and Stuart courts.

The module develops architectural knowledge and interpretation through the variety of English receptions of Renaissance and later forms and features in design and ornament.  Through studying how European artists from Holbein to van Dyck, Lely and Kneller responded to English patronage and impacted on the visual arts in England an appreciation of how art relates to and reflects specifically national cultural identities and characteristics within a wider European culture and artistic frame is developed.  Specialist topics within the course, such as Charles I and his courtiers as patrons and collectors or the Caroline court masque, are intended to relate to other courses that precede or follow English Art and Architecture 1500-1700 to develop understanding incrementally, and the course provides an historical prelude to the following English Art and Architecture 1700-1900.

Module outline

The module surveys the art and architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England from the Tudor and Stuart periods.  It begins in the early Tudor period with the arrival of Italian, French and Flemish influences in architecture, architectural ornament, sculpture and painting, and their assimilation with English styles.  In architecture the theme is examined through major monuments from Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster and King’s College Chapel in Cambridge to Hampton Court, Whitehall and Nonsuch Palaces, to Old Somerset House and the Elizabethan and Jacobean ‘prodigy’ houses of Robert Smythson and his contemporaries and successors.

The early Stuart classical renaissance of Inigo Jones followed by the classical baroque of Christopher Wren and the late baroque of Nicholas Hawksmoor, John Vanbrugh, Thomas Archer and William Talman reflect the politics and culture of 17th-century England and the Continental influences mediated through English themes and variations on European architectural styles to express political power and national status.  The Renaissance visual culture of Henry VIII’s court and the Elizabethan legacy it generated reveal the extensive and sophisticated uses made of the fine arts, architecture and performance for political purposes, exemplified in the cult of personality revealed in royal and courtier images from Holbein to Hilliard and Gheeraerts, and continued by Anthony van Dyck for Charles I and the Caroline court, and in the court entertainments designed by Inigo Jones for the early Stuarts.  The relationship of art and architecture to politics throughout the period is central to the course, concluding with the final assertive flourish of Baroque splendours for church, state and the politically powerful following the Glorious Revolution of 1688.


  • 2,000-word essay (25%)
  • 1,500-word seminar paper (25%)
  • 2-hour examination (50%)

Key texts

  • Airs, Malcolm, The Tudor and Jacobean Country House: A Building History (1998)
  • Bindman, David (ed), The History of British Art 1600-1870 (Tate History of British Art, vol II, 2008)
  • Burke, Joseph, English Art 1714-1800 (Oxford History of English Art, 1976)
  • Hook, Judith, The Baroque Age in England (1976)
  • Howard, Maurice, The Early Tudor Country House: Architecture and Politics 1490-1550 (1987)
  • Howard, Maurice, The Tudor Image (1995)
  • Howarth David, Art and Patronage in the Caroline Court (1993)
  • Starkey, David, Henry VIII. A European Court in England (1991)
  • String, Tatiana, Art and Communication in the Reign of Henry VIII (2008)
  • Strong, Roy, Gloriana. The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (1987)
  • Strong, Roy, Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650 (1984)
  • Strong, Roy, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (1986)
  • Summerson, John, Architecture in Britain 1530-1830 (new ed., 1993)
  • Thurley, Simon, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England: A Social and Architectural History (2008)
  • Whinney, Margaret and Millar, Oliver, English Art 1625-1714 (Oxford History of English Art, 1957)

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