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Medieval and Early Modern Studies: Paris c. 1750, the Birth of the Modern Art World


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


Walter Benjamin claimed that Paris was the capital of the 19th century. In the 18th century, the city could with equal right claim to be the capital that witnessed the birth of the modern art world, because several developments came together there c. 1750 that would define it:

  • the birth of the public art gallery;

  • the birth of academic art history and classical archaeology as academic disciplines;

  • the rise of a new, articulate middle class public of art lovers;

  • the development of new venues to discuss art, such as the Salons, and new media to disseminate art.

In this seminar we will investigate how these developments interacted to make Paris around 1750 the place where the modern art world was born; more in particular, we will consider how these, often conflicting, developments manifested themselves around a series of public debates, from the disputes caused by the rediscovery of Paestum and Pompeï, which led to radical new assessments of the value of classical art for the present, to the design of the church of Sainte Genenviève, subsequently the Panthéon; or the debates that surrounded the transformation of Royal art collections at the Palais-Royal into the Louvre; the new artists and audiences that met in the Salons; or the debates caused by the publication of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums.
During the seminar students will choose art works, texts or artefacts in the collections of the University Library or Museum of Antiquities as the focus of their research. The seminar will also include an excursion to Paris.

Course objectives

  • Students will have a firm grasp of the main events, artistic, theoretical and historiographical developments contributing to Paris becoming the centre of the modern art world in the 1750’s;

  • They will master the existing literature, and will identify new avenues of research;

  • They will be able to give a close visual analysis of an art work or artefact, and demonstrate how it relates to the developments studied in the seminar.


The timetable is available on the Arts and Culture and the Resma Literary Studies website.

Location: The class will be given in the University Library (Heinsius Room).

Mode of instruction

  • Research seminar, consisting of a combination of lectures by the tutors, presentations by the students in which they report on their progress and present their analysis of their work of art, text or artefact of choice.

  • Excursion to Paris.

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

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours
Classes 13 × 4: 52 hours;
Presentations: 55 hours;
Outline: 60 hours;
Research paper: 113 hours.

Assessment method

  • Short oral presentations in Leiden and Paris (25%);

  • Short outline of the research questions, argument, methods and sources for the final paper of this seminar (25%);

  • Research paper (50%).

ResMa students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (7000 words including bibliography instead of 5000 words).


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Re-examination via a rewritten version of the research paper


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Assigments

  • Reading list

  • Powerpoints

  • Relevant events

Reading list

  • To be announced during the first session.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Dr. B. van Oostveldt
Administrations Office Huizinga