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Humbert de Superville: Artist, Genius


Admission requirements

BA degree in History of Art, History or Literature.

Course description

David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville (1770-1849) was born in The Hague though spent many years in Italy, several of which in jail as a revolutionary. During the last decades of his long life he remained in Leiden as head of the drawing academy and first director of the cabinet of prints, drawings and plaster statues. Humbert was one of the earliest admirers of early Italian painting and as a highly original draughtsman involved with all kinds of grandiose designs, e.g. for a gigantic, granite Lion of Holland to be situated before the coast. Moreover, he was the author of a drama called Jésus and of the Essai sur les signes inconditionnels dans l’art, a pioneering work in the field of semiotics.

This course will explore Humbert’s significance as an artist, art scholar and curator. Students will examine and contextualize both Humbert’s scholarly publications and artistic oeuvre, part of which now belongs to the Leiden University Print Collection. The results of this seminar will be used in a (digital) exhibition which focuses on several themes of importance to Humbert and explores many aspects of his multi-faceted artistry.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • acquire in-depth knowledge of one aspect of Humbert’s versatility as an artist and art scholar;

  • write both a concise entry for a catalogue and a longer essay on an aspect of Humbert’s work;

  • deliver an oral presentation on a facet of Humbert’s work;

  • develop insight into not only in Humbert’s work, but also the way it is related to other cultural provinces during the late 18th and early 19th century.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

Seminar. Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars.

Course Load

Total course load for the course is 280 hours:

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars is 24 hours;

  • Time for research is 176 hours;

  • Time for preparing powerpoint presentation and writing entry and essay is 80 hours.

Assessment method

  • Oral presentation: 20%

  • Entry to a (digital) catalogue: 30%

  • Essay: 50%


Blackboard will be used for information about the course and for powerpoint presentations.

Reading list

Yet to be decided upon, to be announced in first session.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact Mrs. Joëlle Koning MA the co-ordinator of studies.

Registration Contractonderwijs

More information Contractonderwijs

Contact information

Dr. E. Grasman


  • This course can be followed for the MA Arts and Culture specialisation: Early Modern and Late Medieval Art

  • It can also be followed as a specialist course for the MA Arts and Culture free component (10 EC) of any other specialisation or MA program of Leiden University.