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Delightful Horror. The Sublime in Seventeenth-Century Visual and Decorative Art and Architecture in France and the Dutch Republic


Please note: For this class there will be additional costs (about €200,-) for the excursion to Paris

Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students.


Art from the Dutch Golden Age is often presented as a laudation of everyday life, the real and the bourgeois. By contrast, art from the French âge classique is praised for its clarity of expression and its moderation. Thus the Golden Age and the âge classique seem to show 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 were increasingly used to define the Golden Age, nor with the work of Poussin or Le Brun used to define the âge classique. 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 and French painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, decorative arts, and architecture 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 Dutch and French 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 landscape and marine paintings are often showing attractive, but fearful sights.

Course objectives

Knowledge: At the end of the summer school the students have acquired a better view on painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, and architecture of the Dutch Golden Age and the French âge classique. They will have developed other perspectives complementary to the dominant view on Dutch and French seventeenth-century art as an expression of the pious burghers and their everyday life or of royal magnificence. The students will also have learned that the Golden Age and the âge classique are historical constructions 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 be able to write a structured discourse in max. 4000 words, incl. notes and bibliography, starting for a relevant definition of the problem and with a thorough conclusion.


The summer school will start in Leiden on June 28th till June 30th. These days we will make excursions to museums in The Hague and Amsterdam. We will be in Paris on July 3 th and 4 th where we will visit the Louvre and Versailles.


Classes will take place at the Oude Sterrewacht (Old Observatory) in Leiden, Room C005 and at the Ecole du Louvre (Quai des Tuilleries, Porte des Lions) in Paris.


28, 29, 30 June, 9 am till 7 PM.
Excursion to Paris (Ecole du Louvre) 3 and 4 July (students will travel to Paris on 2 July).

It’s important to realise that you have to be fully available for the Honours Class during this period.

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures: 8 lectures of 2 hours: 16 hours

  • Excursion: 5 excursions of 5 hours: 25 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 40 hours

  • Final essay: 59 hours

Assessment method

  • 30% Participation assessed continually through participation in summer school

  • 70% A final paper of 4000 words

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

The required literature will be available on Blackboard.


Please note: For this class there will be additional costs (about €200,-) for the excursion to Paris

Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday November 7th until Sunday November 20th through the Honours Academy, via this link


Dr. Stijn Bussels