Exam and Study Guide

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You should be able to identify, discuss, and analyze each work of art

A complete identification contains the following:

1) Artist

2) Title

3) Location, for a work of architecture

4) Stylistic period

5) Approximate date

6) Significance

For medium:

If sculpture: marble, bronze, etc.

If painting: fresco, panel painting, illustrated manuscript, etc.

Study points for discussion and analysis:

Function: Why was the object made? What purpose did it serve? Who was the patron? Who was the intended audience? Where was it originally placed?

Subject matter: What is the iconography (what is the work about)? Does it tell a story? Are there any symbols or clues to the narrative?  Is the subject religious, mythological, a portrait, a landscape, etc.?

Style & formal characteristics: Using art historical terminology, discuss the visual appearance of the work and its significance.  What does the work look like and why?

Context: What does the work say about the period in which it was created? Does the work have specific historical significance?

Format for exams

—slide identifications

—short answer questions

—slide comparison essays


Slide Identifications:

Slides are displayed for 1-1.5 minutes.  Identify as outlined above.

Sample slide ID:   (slide of Michelangelo’s David)

Answer:   Michelangelo, David, Italian High Renaissance, 1500-1525, marble statue originally carved to be placed on Florence’s Duomo, adopted a symbol of the Florentine Republic

Short answer questions:

Slides are displayed for 3-4 minutes.  You need to identify the slide completely as noted above, and you will be asked a question or series of questions to which you will respond with a name, term, and/or full sentences.

Sample short answer question:  (slide of Michelangelo’s David)

a. What is the term used to describe how this figure stands (please give the term only)?

b. What does this term mean?

c. Where was this work originally intended for?

d. What is this figure a symbol for?


Michelangelo’s David, Italian High Renaissance, 1500-1525, marble statue

a. Contrapposto

b. Contrapposto is a way of representing the figure so that its weight appears to be borne on one leg.

c. The statue was to be placed on Florence’s Duomo.

d. David is a symbol for the Florentine Republic.

Sample short answer question:   (Relief sculpture of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and daughters)

How does this work differ from the conventional Egyptian depiction of figures?


Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and daughters, , c. 1349-1336 BC

The relief depicts an informal, intimate pose of the couple as husband and wife or mother and father.  The scene is a tender depiction of the royal family.  This depiction contrasts with the formality traditionally used in presenting the royal family (i.e., Statue of Menkaure and Queen Khamerernebty).  Art of the Amarna Period shows a more relaxed format for portraying royalty.


Slide Comparison Essay:

Slides are displayed for approximately 10 minutes.  The Slide Comparison is a key method of both testing your factual comprehension of the course material and challenging your creative response abilities.  In practice, the comparison is run in this way:

• You will be shown two slides on the screen.

• These will be works of art that we’ve seen and discussed in class.

• The two slides will always have something substantial in common.  Substantial means something deeper than, for example, “Both slides show paintings” or “The painting on the left has lots of green in it, while the painting on the right has lots of red in it,” to name two classic, but wrong responses from students.

• You will need to give the name of the artist, the title or subject, the stylistic period, the location if you are shown a building.

• How to do this: Always take a few moments to think over what you want to say.  Note that in terms of the essay, there is often more than one relevant observation that can be made.  Pick the points you think are best, and then write them out.  If you can’t quite remember all of the factual information (“Oh, it looks so familiar!”), skip down a few lines and start to work on the essay.  That should jog your memory, or calm your nerves, whichever comes first.


Sample Slide Comparison:        (Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s David)

Ideal Answer:

Left: Michelangelo, David, Italian High Renaissance

Right: Donatello, David, Early Renaissance

Both works feature the protagonist of the David and Goliath story from the Old Testament.  However, the sculptors choose to represent different moments in the narrative.  Michelangelo’s David prepares for battle with Goliath.  With his sling thrown over his shoulder, he gazes intently (note the furrowed brows) to the right, as if he were assessing the giant’s strength.  In Donatello’s version, David has already slain the giant and he stands upon Goliath’s decapitated head.  Looking downwards with his eyes hidden by the brim of his hat, this David appears to be lost in thought.  Although both works present David as a classical nude, the representation of their bodies provides the starkest contrast between the statues.  The muscularity of Michelangelo’s male nude is distinct from the slim and youthful look of Donatello’s David.  The contrast attests to the difference in function for each statue.  Michelangelo’s David was a public work of art that was intended for display on the Duomo and Donatello’s David was commissioned by the Medici family for display in the private setting of their palace courtyard.

You will be given several vocabulary terms (i.e., contrapposto, ziggurat) and you will need to define and give an example for each term.  In addition, you may see a diagram such as an architectural plan and be asked to define certain parts of the plan.

As in all college-level courses, you are responsible for all material in the reading assignments and in lecture.  This means you need to master the following material:

• All images listed on the slide handouts.  The images discussed in lecture will appear either in the textbook or on the course website.  You must be able to identify each work of art as outlined above.

• All information presented in lecture and assigned textbook readings on all the works of art.

• All information presented in lecture and assigned textbook readings on the general characteristics of stylistic periods and on historical events and cultural developments pertaining to the art of those periods.

Your success in this class depends on frequent review of the images and the study of how the individual works of art connect to broader issues and ideas.  Developing good note-taking skills are essential for doing well in class.

For good tips on note-taking, look at the following link:

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