Clare Hornsby



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Art and music:  historical and cultural contexts 1050-1800

An example of some of the course material - Four Renaissance Masters

I created and taught a course at the Royal Academy of Music in London for two years until 2011. The classes were a means of testing ideas and structure for a book on the same theme that I hope to complete. The short film (see link below the picture) is an introduction to the course.

The aim of the course was to provide a background in history of art to musicians curious to understand the context in which the works they play and listen to were written and to provoke them to reflect on the relationships between the visual arts and music over time and in the present day. The course of thirteen lectures (supplemented by three gallery visits) was divided into three sections.

  • Patronage, purpose and meaning: Christian art in medieval and Renaissance Europe.
  • The theatrical gesture: art and architecture of the Baroque in Italy and France.
  • Opera, tourism, the museum and the market: public art display and performance across Europe in the eighteenth century

The course proceeds chronologically in order to establish knowledge and familiarity with stylistic development and historical context, but does not attempt to cover everyone or everything. Within each section, a major focus is on patronage as a fruitful way to examine places where art and music were made in parallel, and in some contexts, together. In the first, the role of the church in the making of visual and musical art; in the second, how the power of the court in France and the papacy stimulated art and was enhanced by it and in the third, how the rise of the bourgeoisie and the growth of the art and music markets inaugurated the modern era.  In addition to examining the main themes, there is a short survey that deals with media and structure in visual art – how art was made, why buildings were decorated, the role of supporting crafts.  Other topics will include the issue of styles across the arts; use of terminologies; if there is a ‘time-lag’ in music when contrasted with artistic development; the identity of the artist in each period; a look at theory of aesthetics, particularly related to comparing the arts.  Actual comparisons of art with music – in terms of its form, content, purpose or meaning  and the use of classical music as ‘soundtrack’ to modern visual art events are discussed.

c. 1020-30    St Michael Hildesheim attrib. St. Berwald - Victimae pascali laudes, Easter sequence, attrib. Wipo of Burgundy chaplain to Holy Roman emperor Conrad II
c. 1140/c. 1150 St. Denis ambulatory attrib. Abbot Suger - Hildegard von Bingen Alma Redemptoris Mater hymn to Virgin Mary
1180 consecrated/c. 1200 exterior of the chevet Notre Dame – Leonin/Perotin Repons et valde
c. 1412/c.1385-90 Très Riches Heures Limbourg brothers et al prayer book - Goscalch En nul estat  Chantilly Codex
1432 /before 1430 Van Eyck brothers Lam Gotts – Dunstaple Quam pulchra est
25 May 1436 Brunelleschi Santa Maria dei Fiori dome - Dufay Nuper Rosarum Flores
1478/ c. 1485 Botticelli Primavera - Heinrich Isaac Ne più bella, both for the Medici     
1514/before 1520 Raphael Stanze dell’Incendio  – Josquin Salve Regina motet sang at dinner for Leo X Medici in 1520 in this room
c. 1548/ 1540s Titian Venus and Adonis - Willaert Petrarch madrigal In qual parte
1565/ 1563  Palladio St Giorgio Maggiore – Palestrina Missa Ut Mi Fa Re Sol    
1590s/1610  El Greco View of Toledo - Byrd Fantasia for viols
c.1595/c. 1610 Caravaggio Bacchus – Gesualdo  Moro, lasso
1634/1635 Bernini S. Peter’s basilica Baldacchino – Frescobaldi Fiori Musicali
1638  Rubens The Garden of Love - Monteverdi Canto amoroso di Marte
1638/c. 1650s?  Poussin A Dance to the Music of Time –Carissimi, cantata Si dia bando alla speranza
c.1678/1671 Hardouin-Mansart Galerie des Glaces at Versailles – Lully, prelude to Psyché
1718/1735    Watteau Divertissements champêtres - Rameau Premier air pour Zéphir from Les Indes Galantes
1749 Servandoni design for the Royal Fireworks - Handel La Paix from Firework Music
1785   David Oath of the Horatii – Mozart opening of Dissonance quartet K465
1814  Goya Third of May - Beethoven piano sonata op. 90