nl en

Art & Diversity: Political Iconology (1600-1800)




Admissions requirements

Visualizing Cultures (1600-1900): Political Iconology (2016-2017), or permission of the instructor.


This course will focus on how early modern images reflect the emerging social, religious, cultural and ethnic diversity in their respective societies and how different groups aimed to explore and define themselves in the visual arts of this period. Over the course of seven weeks, we will trace and analyze these different processes in a visual tale of two cities. In the first part of the course, we will focus on 17th century Amsterdam and explore how different religious groups in this city (particularly Mennonites, Jews and Muslims) and social classes were represented, by themselves as well as by others, in images produced in the city’s Golden Age and how these groups related to Amsterdam’s wider community. We will also discuss how various aspects of the visual arts, such as genre and agency, related to the concept of diversity in 17th-century Amsterdam and how in the course of this period, art became an increasingly important instrument to build bridges between the various groups. In the second part, we will turn to William Hogarth’s 18th-century London and analyze the role of diversity in his prints and how his political and social activism related to the various cultural, social and ethnic groups in the city as well as the notion of diversity itself.

Although the course will focus first and foremost on paintings and prints, we will discuss a number of texts that will help us to read and analyze these images in the context of the cultures that produced them. These include contemporary texts (ranging from private correspondence to political pamphlets), iconological theory by Aby Warburg and Ernst Gombrich as well as a small number of texts on modern theoretical concepts, such as Stephen Greenblatt’s notion of self-fashioning and Jacques Lacan’s Gaze.

Finally, this course follows on from Art & Diversity 1 as well as last year’s Visualizing Cultures (1600-1900): Political Iconology. Students who took Visualizing Cultures should note that while Art & Diversity 2 focuses on the same period and some of the same themes and artists, there is no overlap between the two courses.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students can:

  • read and analyze a political image in the context of its period

  • analyze and discus how a particular image represents specific cultural ideas and values and to what purpose it was created

  • write a substantial and well-structured iconological analysis of a small set of images, and support the argumentation with historical sources

  • have a thorough grasp of the key concepts introduced and discussed in class and understand how these relate to the concept of diversity and its visual representation

  • give a diachronic account of the development of different kinds of diversity in the Dutch Republic and England in in the period between 1600-1800

  • and, finally, give an account of the various ways in which the visual arts were involved in these developments.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Seminars (two per week) with presentations and discussions of the works of art and texts. Students should take note that the course will require some travel: one of the classes will take place at Leiden University Libraries’ Special Collections and the course will include a field trip to the Rijksmuseum.


Participation (in-class participation) Percentage: 15%
Deadline: on-going, weeks 1 – 7

Iconological portfolio
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: weeks 2, 3 and 6

Research presentation
Percentage: 15%
The date of the presentations will be announced at the start of the block. Do please note that even though this is a group assignment, students will be graded individually.

Final research essay (4000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

A detailed reading list will be given before the start of the course but students who did not take Visualizing Cultures (1600-1900): Political Iconology must make sure to read the following text before the first class:

Ernst Gombrich, “Aims and Limits of Iconology” in Symbolic Images (pp 1-25). London: Phaidon, 1972. (Blackboard)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Jacqueline Hylkema at