nl en

How The World Makes Art


Admission requirements

Same as admission requirements for the BA Art History.


Art is a universal human feature. Across the world, and in all periods, human cultures have produced paintings, sculptures, drawings to give visible form to their dreams, fears, or desires. They have also used art to act on its viewers: to inspire fear, love or admiration; or to express social, political or religious values and identities.

In this introductory course to the study of art across the world we look at four major themes and functions of art:

  • the power of art works to act on their viewers;

  • art and religion;

  • art and identity;

  • and art and the afterlife.

In a series of 13 lectures we will show how these themes and functions occur across the world and in all ages, from the 5th century BCE to the present day. Speakers from archaeology, Latin American and South Asian Studies will alternate with the main tutors of this course. The course also includes an excursion to the Leiden museums. It will thus offer a panorama of the vast range of approaches to the study of art practised in Leiden, and the rich worldwide collections of both the University and the city’s museums.

Course objectives

  • Having some insight in and being able to value the richness, varieties and development of art across the world.

  • Being familiar with major forms and technical and physical aspects of the visual and applied arts and architecture from prehistory to the present.

  • Being acquainted with and able to make use of the main sources and handbooks on world art studies.

  • Having insight into the main scholarly approaches to world art studies.


  • Wednesday 17-19 hrs and Friday 9-11 hrs i.e. two times a week! (draft)

Please note: for the final schedule refer to Collegeroosters / Timetable on the Art History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture series

Important: attendance to these lectures is mandatory! In case of no-show, the tutors hould be informed about your absence prior to the actual lecture. Moreover this course cannot be successfully completed by students that were absent more than twice. Only in exceptional cases, the Examination Committee may consider the possibility of an additional or substitute assignment. See also the Course and Examination Regulations.

Course Load

Course load in summary: 5 ects (140 hrs)

26 hours: Attendance of the lectures: 2 hrs weekly x 13 weeks
40 hours: Required readings (c. 280 pages à 7 pages/hr)
14 hours: Preparation of, and visit to museums in Leiden
40 hours: Preparing and making an art work analysis
20 hours: Preparation of a final written exam

140 hrs

Assessment method

  • A 1000 words close analysis of a work of art in the Leiden collections (30%)

  • Written exam (70%)

Compensation: The weighted average of all assessments should be at least 6.0 and both parts need to have a grade superior to 5.5.
Resit: If the essay is graded below 5.5 it can be resubmitted once. There will be one general re-sit for the final written exam.


Blackboard will be used to make course materials accessible.

Reading list

N. Spivey, How Art Made the World. London: BBC Publications, 2005.


Via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la Carte and Contractonderwijs

Sign up for Studeren à la Carte
Sign up for Contractonderwijs


Dhr Prof.dr. W. (wilfied) van Damme (course coördinator)