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History of European Decorative Arts and Design


Admission requirements

Same as admission requirements for the BA Art History/BA Arts, Media and Society.


This series of 13 lectures presents a chronological and thematic overview of the decorative arts and design from the medieval goldsmith until the advent of the contemporary designer. Although the geographical focus is Europe this survey course will also pay attention to the enduring and significant influence of non-Western cultures on artistic creation since the Middle Ages. The nature of the decorative arts, and their position within artistic production in general, is explored through the study of objects, materials and techniques, as well as the roles of designers, craftsmen and patrons in their historical context. In addition, the practical function and social and cultural meaning of objects is investigated.

Course objectives

  • Students acquire general knowledge of the principal developments in the history of the decorative arts and design from c.1000 to 2000.

  • Students acquire knowledge of basic techniques used in metalworking, textiles, woodworking and ceramics.

  • Students acquire knowledge of the cycle of production and consumption in the decorative arts and design.

  • Students learn to understand the historical and cultural significance of works of the decorative arts and design.

  • Students are introduced to a number of important theoretical debates concerning the decorative arts and design.

  • Students acquire experience in using visual and written sources for the study of the decorative arts.


Please note: for the final schedule refer to Collegeroosters / Timetable BA Art History on the Art History website.

Mode of instruction

  • lectures

Course load

Course load in summary: 5 ects (140 hrs)

26 hrs: attending lectures (2 hrs weekly x 13 weeks)
30 hrs: lecture preparations (reading texts)
40 hrs: studying the literature (see Reading List)
15 hrs: studying visual resources related to the lecture
25 hrs: exam preparation (reading, writing abstracts etc.)
04 hrs: exams —-
140 hrs

Assessment method

  • Mid-term exam (50%): written exam on the content of lectures 1-7 (mix of closed questions).

  • Final exam (50%): written exam on the content of lectures 8-14 (mix of closed questions).

Compensation: The weighted average of the (constituent) examinations must be at least 6.0 (= a pass). For both the mid-term exam and the final exam a mark below 6.0 is not allowed.

Resit: A resit/ rewrite can be done for constituent examinations which are failed. As far as applicable all resits/ rewrites take place at the same time, after the final (constituent) examination.

Inspection and feedback*: How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used to share visual resources and literature material, related to the course, as well as to publish exams for practice.

Reading list

  • Edward Lucie-Smith. Furniture: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson 1985. (or latest edition)

  • Peter Thornton. Form & Decoration. Innovation in the decorative arts 1470-1870. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. (or latest edition)

  • John Heskett. Industrial design. New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press 1980 (or latest edition)

Additional readings may be announced via Blackboard

Visual resources via Blackboard


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Coordinator of studies for the BA Art History Alexander Dencher

Or send an e-mail to the study coordinator of the BA Art History / Arts, Media and Society


History of European Decorative Arts and Design is the new name of the old course History of Design and Domestic Culture. Students who did not pass the old course, should pass the new course.