The Glory of Florence II

10 week course: 19 January - 23 March 2018

This series of lectures will continue to explore art, architecture and sculpture in Florence. This is a follow up course to Part I (autumn 2017) but there is no need to have attended the former course to join us this term.

Our former course focused on the 15th century, so this term we begin by studying some of Florence’s most beautiful paintings and buildings from earlier periods, including works by Giotto such as his frescoes in Santa Croce and the recently restored Ognissanti Crucifix, and the magnificent but little-known paintings by Andrea da Bonaiuto in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella. We then explore the development of Florentine art, architecture and sculpture from the early 16th century onwards. When the Medici were sent into exile at the end of the quattrocento, the citizens of Florence proclaimed a Republic and it was at this time that Michelangelo’s David (1501-4) was commissioned – one of our key works in focus. When the family returned Duke Cosimo de Medici (descended from the illustrious Cosimo of the 15th century) took control. He and his wife Eleonora were enthusiastic patrons of the arts, commissioning exquisite portraits and impressive edifices such as a series of vast administrative offices or Uffizi, which in 1580 would be expanded by his successor Francesco I, an avid art collector, and finally bequeathed to the city in 1743 by the last surviving member of the Medici family, Anna Maria.

The course is organised thematically - each session explores a different subject such as painting technique, portraiture and art theory, or a key work such as Michelangelo’s David. We will discuss examples by some of the most important artists in Florence such as Bronzino, Pontormo, Vasari, Giambologna and Michelangelo as well as visitors to the city including Raphael and Zoffany.

There will be a special guest lecture by renowned photographer Sarah Quill, a trustee of the Venice in Peril Fund. In 1985, the film director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and their scriptwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adapted E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel, A Room with a View, into a successful feature film for the cinema. Set in Florence and in Surrey, this comedy of Edwardian morals and manners explored themes that Forster was to develop in his later novels. Sarah Quill worked as the stills photographer throughout the ten-week film, and will describe some of the experiences of the cast and crew in Italy and England. Illustrated with her photographs, her talk will examine the background to the film and the lasting appeal of Forster’s novel.

Our second guest lecture is given by Dr Chantal Brotherton-Ratcliffe from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Chantal specialises in historical painting techniques and will discuss the paint pigments that were available to artists in Florence, bringing along samples of various materials that artists would have used at the time for us to take a closer look.

The course is structured thematically, and images are discussed within their economic, political and social context.

Art History in Focus’s courses are characterised by a relaxed and entertaining learning environment, which often allows for lively discussion. Lectures last two hours with a break for refreshments, and the talks are illustrated by high quality digital images.

Lectures are on Friday mornings and run from 11-1; doors open at 10.45. One of the sessions will be a study day at the National Gallery (9th March) in which Siân and her colleague Jacqui Ansell will give guided tours of the collection focusing on works studied during the course. Refreshments are included in the Trafalgar Room, and an optional end-of-term lunch is arranged for those who would like to join the group.

Please note, February 9th will be an afternoon session from 2.30-4.30 and there is no half term.


Further Information

Location and Directions
Churchgate House Centre
Downside Bridge Rd
Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3EJ.

To view a map of the Churchgate House Centre location click here

There is free parking at the centre, although if you are unable to find a space you can park in one of the nearby roads or in the pay and display car park on Hollyhedge Road. There is further free parking on the left just over the bridge on Downside Bridge Road.

The course is open for all to join. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy here.

We regret we are unable to offer refunds on unused course subscriptions, but your place may be transferred to someone else if you are unable to attend (please provide their name in advance, thank you)

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event.


  • Discover masterpieces of Florentine Art and Architecture, from Giotto to Michelangelo
  • Guest lecture by "Room with a View" photographer, Sarah Quill
  • Learn how artists painted and handle pigments that they used in our special talk on Florentine technique
  • Explore works studied in class in a guided tour of the National Gallery
  • Meet people with similar interests
  • Refreshments included



Booking is now closed.

If you have any questions regarding the course or booking please send us an email

Recommended Reading

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