Category Archives: Research and reflection

The Differences between the Italian and Northern Renaissance


  • Portraits tend to be head on
  • Classically influenced art
  • Lots of conceptual art
  • Lots of art concerned with wealth and power
  • Exploring the forces behind nature
  • Painting, Sculpture and architecture all part of the Renaissance
  • Subject Matter:  Classical mythology, religious scenes
  • Painting media: Fresco, tempera, oil
  • Rejection of Gothic


  • Portraits tend to be slightly at and angle to the side
  • no major classical influence
  • Realistic subjects, everyday life
  • Naturalistic subjects
  • Only painting part of the Renaissance
  • Subject Matter: Domestic interiors, portraits, religious scenes
  • Painting media: oil on panel
  • Embraced Gothic for much longer

What are the Arcade, Triforium and Clerestory?

Taken from the website

a quick help for remembering what each bit is in a Cathedral/church.

The clerestory are the top, often “rose” or circular style windows that cap the top of a gothic style wall just under the vaults.

triforium is an architectural device that separates the arcade from the balcony or the arcade from the windows above. It is often a row of tiny arches carved into the stone.

An arcade is a hall with at least one side consisting of a long series of arches. These are often open to the outdoors, to the nave, or glassed in. These often occur on the ground floor.

Here is an image to help illustrate how the outside of the Cathedral coincides with the inside and makes it whole in design.


Concrete and Rome

Chapter 5 A World History of Art. I would have never had imagined the importance of concrete in Roman Architecture. So many of the amazing buildings that are known so well only exist because 9f the development of concrete. For example the Colosseum.


It is funny how now concrete is such a derided building material, particularly the uses of it in the 60s and 70s. And how ugly the buildings produced are considered to be. I wonder if Romans thought the same about the Colosseum? I doubt it.




Researching local Roman remains


When I was tasked with finding some local Roman remains I was very surprised to learn that there are some ones in Manchester as I had never associated the city with this period I thought of much later.

I discovered the Mamucium which was a fort in the Roman Province of Britannia. The remains are in the Castlefield  area of the city, some of the remains have been lost due to the construction of the Rochdale Canal but there are still plenty of parts of the fort that remain and reconstruction have been undertaken.



When the Romans invaded Britain, they brought with them four legions, of which three remained as a permanent garrison. As a result, three legionary fortresses were established, far larger than regular forts and built to hold an entire legion. These were constructed at Caerleon, Chester and York, and naturally these became strategically important locations. In around 78AD the governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, was campaigning against the Brigantes, a tribe in the north of Britain. The Brigantian territory included the areas around Manchester, and the fort at Manchester was first constructed during Agricola’s campaign against them. It remained in use after the campaign until the end of the 4th century, since it lay on the road between Chester and York.

There have been 4 forts constructed on the site. Archaeology on the site of the Roman fort, in the Castlefield area of Manchester (named on account of the remains) has revealed that the original fort of c. 78AD was constructed quickly out of turf and wood, as most forts were on campaign. It was garrisoned by an auxiliary cohort of about 500 men. In around 160AD, the fort was extended to include granaries, and then in around 200AD it was rebuilt in stone. The occasion was the visit of the Emperor Severus to the area in order to subdue a revolt.

As well as the fort itself, a small civilian settlement called a vicus sprung up just outside its walls. These were not official towns and had no administrative buildings, but instead co-existed with those stationed in the fort. The inhabitants of the vicus profited from the presence of the troops, and in return they provided supplies and entertainment for the soldiers. The vicus at Manchester developed into an industrial estate, which we know on account of the number of furnaces found in excavations. However the vicus declined in the first half of the 3rd century and was abandoned not long after, despite the occupation of the fort until the next century.


Artist’s impression by Graham Sumner of the fort

Following excavations by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit in 1980, the north gate was reconstructed in 1984. This incorporates some of the original plinth stones from the Roman gate. Here is a picture of it.



Reading Chapter 5 of A World History of Art and Aristotle  (Greek philosopher 384-322bc) seems to have had a great influence on the development of art. He stated that an object’s form is decided by who made it, what it was made of and why it was made. This broke with the traditional idea that things were created to follow some natural or predestined format. This idea really took hold and led onto individual expression in the creation of things. As a result the concept of objects being works of art within the themselves rather than just functional creations was born. This started the rise of the artsist as a recognised figure and consequently developed the patronage system we still have today, plus the rise of the art collector. So Aristotle had a massive influence on how art is perceived and how the art world works as a business. Never would have to thought of that connection but it really is very powerful and pivotal.

Draft notes on chapter 4 for next assignment.

AWHOA Chapter 4 – The Greeks and their Neighbours

Political, economic or social factors

Greece was not a unified state it was made up of many city states which were often warring (e.g. Athens, Carthage, Sparta). But one thing they did have in common was a shared culture and artistic tradition. Greek states developed a sense of superiority over other countries that their culture was better. Arts started in about 800BC. The most celebrated period was from the end of the Persian War (490BC) to the unification in 338BC. This was the ‘classic period’ where art really flourished. After this was the decline.

Changes to status or training of artists

Politically the city states were run by the aristocracy not religious bodies. In this atmosphere artists were encouraged to be experimental and to outdo the artists from the past. You start to see the beginning of patronage and artists would travel around the different city states in search of commissions.

Development of materials and processes

Development of the architecture being based on the human body to create spatial harmony. ‘Man the measure of all things’ Protagoras (philosopher). The Parthenon is a good example of this.

Development of the Doric style of architecture, they took the Egyptian temple and turned it inside out so columns no appear on outside of the building. Doric seems to have been based on skills transferred from wooden structure building.

Use of marble?

Learning from Egypt, early Greek sculpture were often quite stiff and usually only a had couple of viewpoints. Greek sculpture gradually developed its own style of more natural posing, more anatomically correct and figures that can be viewed from multiple angles.

Styles and movements

Development of a very Greek style. A simplicity and clarity in sculpture where there was a real focus on the pubescent male nude. No real development of female sculpture in the same way. Women tended to be depicted at least semi clothed with accentuating modesty, and concealing her appeal sexually. First female nude not until 4th century BC.

Sculpture and art developed the dual ideas being both natural and the ideal. So for example in sculpture the natural would be how the figure was posed and the ideal would be the figure itself a unrealistic depiction of the human body often made up of the ‘best bits’ of several models.

Inside and outside influences

Greeks were influenced by many of their neighbouring countries that they traded with. In particular Egypt (large statues and temples) but also other states like Syria and Asian countries.

Critics, thinkers and historians

Romans thought that Greek art was the pinnacle and to be aspired to, it was ‘canonical’ art.

The idea of canonical art carried on until the 19th Century. More modern critics focus on the peculiar nature of the Greek obsessions (e.g. nude adolescent male, idealism).