On Writing the Paper

Paper is Now Due:: Thursday, April 22

[This description will br revised for other locations]

You are to write a research paper on a sculpture that you have personally studied for this class at a museum or gallery in the greater New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area. Please stick to the chronological guidelines of this course: late 13th to early 17th centuries. Within this timeframe, please choose an artist who is Italian or who worked for most of his career in Italy (ie, Francesco Laurana or Giambologna) Museum choices include:

Which one to choose: The Met has the biggest collection of Renaissance sculpture nearby; it also has an excellent collection of paintings if you wish to do comparative work. The Frick chiefly has portrait busts and small bronzes; and Princeton has a very limited collection but is the closest if travel is a problem. If we were closer to Washington I'd say go there; the sculpture and the painting collections for Renaissance are outstanding.

Whichever collection you choose, give yourself plenty of time. Study the Website and the catalog before you go in order to get an idea of what you'd like to use. The Met allows non-flash photography; the Frick does not but has postcard reproductions of several of the sculptures. Sketching the sculpture is also very helpful; you don't have to be Michelangelo to discover more in the work by drawing it than you first noticed.

Mechanics: The paper is to be no less than 7 and not more than 10 pages in length. The margins are to be one inch on all sides and the type size is to be no bigger than 14 point. You will need a title page, footnotes (or endnotes), and a separate bibliography. You will find much helpful information in Sylvan Barnet's Guide to Writing about Art. Pay special attention to his discussions on the use of sources and on plagiarism. It is more important that the paper reflect your own studies, research and opinions than it be filled with jargon and ill-digested opinions of others. Do not collaborate or discuss in any detail your paper with others in the class. Try reasonably hard not to work on a sculpture that you know someone else is researching. Ask me if you have any questions about any of this. You may at any time show me your notes, drafts, etc, for my considered opinion. However! Feel free to ask me to review your topic, eyeball your paper, etc. You may e-mail me or make an appointment. You may also want to take advantage of the kind, intelligent, and dedicated staff of the Learning Resource Center.

Form of the Paper: You are required to use one of the formats below for your paper:

  1. Find one sculpture either by or closely related to the style of one of the artists covered in this course. Do a complete descriptive write-up of this work, using bibliographical sources to help you understand and explain the sculpture's history and relation to other works by the artist or other artists. You may also consider painting, where that is relevant and useful.
  2. You are a new assistant curator of decorative arts at the (pick one) Met, Frick, Philadelphia, Princeton, NGA. Pick one sculpture from one of these and write up a purchase proposal for the work just as if it weren't already in the collection. Along with the advice below, you are going to want to stress the importance of the sculpture both in itself and as it relates to the museum's collection.
  3. You are an experienced curator of Renaissance sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most unfortunately, the greater portion of the Met's endowment was locked up in the Dewey, Cheathem and Howe Hedge Fund, whose directors have absconded with all funds to their own private fortified island in the Caribbean. The Met's Board of Directors have sadly decided to de-accession (ie, sell) the greater part of the Italian Renaissance Sculpture collection. You get to chose which THREE sculptures are to remain. You choose the criteria for the three; you must, however, write a defense aimed at convincing an increasingly hostile Board composed in part by art dealers, persons with no great interest in Renaissance art, and old-line New Yorkers with the most traditional tastes.

    General Advice on Research and Writing: After you select a sculpture, make note of the information on the museum label, which should tell you something about the artist, date, material, condition, and historical importance, all important parts of your paper. If the label doesn't (and labels vary enormously in quality and quantity of information; and this lack does not necessarily mean anything about the recognized quality of the work of art), you will want to turn to the institution's catalog. A good catalog will have a full bibliography and remember that many older publications are still valuable. Note that museum catalogs are usually only updated every twenty years or so, so check the sources below first.

    After you've checked the catalog for the basic information described above, you will want to do searches for more modern material using either the CD-ROM or online versions of Art Index and BHA. However, keep in mind that these only go back only to the 1970s.

    The titles listed under General Bibliography could be very useful also for comparative material and photographs.

    Don't Forget Giorgio Vasari! A mine of information; you might even find your sculpture discussed by him. If you don't, see what he says about other works by the same artist, or, if he didn't include your artist in his histories, how does he discuss/appreciate work of the same genre?

    Schedule: You may begin the paper at any time. It is due April 20, but you may hand it in earlier. Late papers will be accepted for full credit only if you have a documentable illness, family emergency, or a similar event or circumstance that prevents you from turning in the paper on time. If you wish to claim this exception, it is up to you to provide the documentation the first time you speak to me about it.

    Above: Francesco Laurana.  A Noblewoman of the House of
    Aragon.  Marble, ca. 1475. 
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

    Back to Italian Renaissance Sculpture Main Page
    Adrienne DeAngelis acd@efn.org