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Neglected Art: The Grotesque & Caricatures


Disclaimer: this course description might be subject to changes.

Please note: For this class there will be additional costs (about €200,-) for the excursion to Lille.

Topics: What is art? What is the role of art in society? Why do we need art?
Disciplines: Art History, Anthropology, Cultural History.
Skills: Research, public speaking, presenting, academic writing.

Admission requirements:

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an elective course within the Honours College programme. Third year students who don’t participate in the Honours College, have the opportunity to apply for a Bachelor Honours Class. Students will be selected based on i.a. their motivation and average grade.


This Summer School focuses on the grotesque and caricature. We study images that were extremely popular and were often created by the most prominent artists of their time. Nevertheless, traditional Art History rarely accepted these images as true art. They were too extravagant, too strange, too fantastic, too popular. In this course we will revisit this neglect, which tells so much about implicit attitudes towards image making and viewing, because the grotesque like the caricature provide excellent examples that show that images can do so much more than mirroring society or imitating nature. Their very lack of naturalism, exaggerations, grim humour or terrifying aspect can enforce the prestige of the patrons, emphasise the technical virtuosity of the artist, make fun of the persons depicted, and in general show how images can become not just things of beauty, or mere ornament, but social actors. Thus they show that images are not only made to decorate our environment, but can help us to change our society. To do so, we will visit major art collections in the Netherlands and Lille, and offer a seminar by Leiden, Paris and Cambridge staff and curators.

Collaboration with Ecole du Louvre:

This Honours Class is organised in Leiden, Amsterdam and Lille (France) in collaboration with Ecole du Louvre (France). Together with students from Ecole du Louvre an you will follow lectures and go on excursion in the Netherlands. Later on, you will travel to Lille, where you will attend lectures and will visit a museum.

Course objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course:

At the end of the summer school you have acquired a better view on the sociocultural impact of the visual and the decorative arts. The grotesque and caricature are ideal means to learn perspectives on art that go beyond aesthetics or iconography. Moreover, you will learn about an important, but nevertheless neglected part of the history of art from the fifteenth till the nineteenth centuries.

At the end of the summer school you are able to accomplish independent art historical research: to formulate and present a well-considered judgement on scientific literature and relate this to the analysis of art and architecture in both a written and oral manner.

The course objectives are:

  • To select a subject for an art historical research and to formulate a relevant definition of the problem

  • To choose an adequate method to solve this problem, to carry out a thorough analysis of secondary literature and of visual and textual primary sources which is elaborated in a bibliography that corresponds to academic requirements.

  • To be able to write a structured discourse in max. 3000 words, incl. notes and bibliography, starting for a relevant definition of the problem and with a thorough conclusion.

Programme and timetable:

This summer school will take place from June 24 until June 28.

Monday 24th of June
11:00 – 13:00 Introduction (Old Observatory Leiden, room C003)
14:00 – 16:30 Special Collections (University Library Leiden)
17:00 – 18:00 Drinks (Old Observatory)

Tuesday 25th of June
10:00 – 13:00 Grotesque (Old Observatory Leiden, room C003)
14:00 – 16:00 Museum Volkenkunde @Leiden

Wednesday 26th of June
10:30 – 13:30 Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
15:15 – 18:50 Travel to Lille (timetable needs to be confirmed)

French Program in Lille Follows

Friday 28th of June
15:30 – 18:44 Travel to Leiden (timetable needs to be confirmed)

Leiden, Old Observatory room C003
Lille (France)
Reading list:

Literature will be announced in class or via Brightspace.

Course load and teaching method:

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures: 8 lectures of 2 hours: 16 hours (attendance is mandatory);

  • Excursion: 5 excursions of 5 hours: 25 hours (attendance is mandatory);

  • Literature reading & practical work: 40 hours;

  • Final essay: 59 hours.

Assessment methods:

The assessment methods will look as follows:

  • 30% Participation assessed continually through participation in summer school;

  • 70% A final paper of 3000 words.

Students could only pass this course after successful completion of all partial exams.

The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the class.

Brightspace and uSis:

Brightspace will be used in this course. Upon admission students will be enrolled in Brightspace by the teaching administration.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Bachelor Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Application process:

Please note: For this class there will be additional costs (about €200,-) for the excursion to Lille.

Submitting an application for this course is possible from Monday 30 October up to and including Sunday 19 November 2023 23:59 through the link on the Honours Academy student website.

Note: students don’t have to register for the Bachelor Honours Classes in uSis. The registration is done centrally before the start of the class.

Prof.dr. Stijn Bussels: