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Seminar BA3 Visual Arts/Architecture/Design and Decorative Arts: Delightful horror in the Dutch Golden Age


Admission requirements

Propaedeutics Art History. Completed second year Seminars (BA2) and Excursion Seminar (or equivalent).


Art from the Dutch Golden Age is often presented as a laudation of everyday life, the real and the bourgeois. Thus the Golden Age seems to be a clear rupture from the centuries-old fascination of art as an experience of contrasting emotions of fascination and horror, and fear and attraction. These conflicting emotions seem not to correspond with the ‘calm’ Dutch painters as Vermeer, De Hooch or Potter whose works was increasingly used to define the Golden Age. Passionate feelings are far more often related to the impact of their baroque and ecstatic counterparts in the Southern Netherlands and Italy, with Rubens and Caravaggio as most famous examples. Nevertheless, in Dutch painting, prints and architecture, as well as in less know sculptures and applied arts the strong emotions of fear and attraction do play an important role. There are, for example, the many representations of anatomy lessons in which the human body is shown in its goriest details. The vanitas still lives with the skull as central feature give more than mere detached contemplations of the inevitable death. They send shivers down the spine because of the concrete nearness of human decline. The realism of the Dutch portraits often evokes a scary presence, while the marble busts seem to be living or sleeping persons. Sculptors, painters, print makers, architects, and applied artists did not avoid to show war, political violence or other forms of human suffering as directly as possible. Also land scape and marine paintings are often showing attractive, but fearful sights. In this seminar we will start from seventeenth-century art theory and give close analyses of the works of arts and buildings. Thus we learn about how the Dutch artists and architects tried to overwhelm their audience completely.

Course objectives

Knowledge: At the end of the seminar the students have acquired a better view on painting, prints, architecture and applied arts of the Dutch Golden Age. They will have developed other perspectives complementary to the dominant view on Dutch seventeenth-century art as an expression of the pious burghers and their everyday life. The students will also have learned that the Golden Age is an historical construction from later periods than the seventeenth century to provide these later periods of norms and values.
Skills: Being able to accomplish Independent art historical research: to formulate and present a well considered judgement on scientific literature and relate this to the analysis of art and architecture in both a written and oral manner. The course objectives are:

  • To select a subject for an art historical research and to formulate a relevant definition of the problem

  • To choose an adequate method to solve this problem, to carry out a thorough analysis of secondary literature and of visual and textual primary sources which is elaborated in a bibliography that corresponds to academic requirements.

  • To present an oral presentation with visual support, as well as a short presentation in a museum during the excursion. Both can be related to the chosen problem. Moreover, after both presentations a thorough answer to the questions and remarks of the instructor and fellow students can be given.
    7 To be able to write a structured discourse in max. 5000 words, exl. notes and bibliography, starting for a relevant definition of the problem and with a thorough conclusion.


The timetable is available on the Art History website

Mode of instruction

  • Introductory Lectures

  • Seminars

  • Excursion

Important: attendance in seminar sessions is mandatory! In case of no-show, the tutor should be informed about your absence prior to the actual seminar session. 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

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

20 hours (2 × 10 hrs) Lectures
4 hours: Excursion to Musea
10 hours (1 × 10 hrs): Preparation lectures
30 hours (3 × 10 hrs): Studying literature 12 hours: Preparation excursion
40 hours: Preparation presentation
40 hours: Preparation paper
64 hours: Writing paper first phase
60 hours: Writing paper second phase

Assessment method

  • Paper: 65% of Final Grade.

  • presentation: 25% of Final Grade.

  • presentation during excursion: 5% of Final Grade.

  • active participation seminar: 5% of Final Grade.


Compensation: The final grade will be determined as the weighted average of the four assessments (see assessment method).
Resit: The resit mark will be based on a revision of the paper. Re-sit for the presentation will be a separate assignment, to be determined by the Examination Committee.



  • Literature

  • Power point presentations and related digital presentations

  • Downloading papers

  • Publication of the presentations

  • General and practical information

Reading list

Will be announced through blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


Docent Dhr. dr S.P.M. Bussels