Art History 6: Examine the different values placed on art works Resource reference

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Art History 3.6: Examine the different values placed on art works

Resource reference: Adapted 3.6A and 3.6B

Resource title: Values in Renaissance Art

Credits: 4


Achievement with Merit

Achievement with Excellence

Examine the different values placed on art works

Examine in-depth, the different values placed on art works.

Examine, perceptively, the different values placed on art works

Student instructions


This assessment activity requires you to produce a detailed guide booklet for interested readers. The focus of the booklet is the different values placed on three Renaissance art works.

You will be assessed on the perceptiveness of your analysis and your integration of supporting evidence.

This is an individual task.

Your assessment takes place during one week of in-class time and four weeks of out-of-class time.


The art works for this assessment are:

  • Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, c.1485, Tempera on canvas, 175.5 x 278.5cm, OR

  • Botticelli’s Primavera, c. 1482, tempera on panel, 203 x 314cm

  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, c.1503 – 1515, oil on wood, 76.8 x 53.3cm

  • Michelangelo’s David, 1501 – 1504, marble, 5.22m high

Should you wish to choose a different art work from the above artists, check with me first.

Gather Evidence

Research the different values placed on each of the three art works. To do this you will need to trace their history and their locations over time, e.g. who owned them, who moved them, why, how much were they worth, were they written about by contemporaries, were they stolen, hijacked, vandalised, restored, mass produced, purchased by a gallery, hidden away, politicised, argued over???? Were they considered beautiful (at all times!!!), did they go out of fashion, were they influential to other artists, were they technically superb, a feat of genius, a masterpiece, do tourists flock to see them, are they mocked, were the materials expensive???? Did they have a talisman effect, promote ideals, create revenue, tourism, rivalry, investment, status, public interest, able to ‘convey truths’, create an emotional response or civic identity etc etc ????????

Compile the Booklet

Compile a booklet, preferably with pictures and diagrams, as they are relevant, that explains and analyses the different values placed on these art works over time. Use the above paragraph as ideas for things you could discuss.

Your booklet should include:

  • an introduction per art work describing the basic background and how the work came into existence.

  • An analysis of the different values placed on each work at the time and over time where possible. Support this analysis with evidence from the art work and other sources.

  • A conclusion with some insight perhaps into the changing value of art and what is precious over time and why?

Resource requirements

Useful resources include (Some of which I will show in class or provide for you):


Robert Hughes, The Mona Lisa Curse

Laurie Schneider Adams (2012) Art Beginners Guides, One World Publications

Botticelli – Depending on which painting you do but all will be useful for either painting

DVD – ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ The Birth of Venus by W. Januszcak

Art Sleuth

Zuffi, S. Botticelli Birth of Venus, Art Mysteries

Botticelli: Masters of Art

Hagen, What Great Paintings Say Vol 1, p139 on

Sister Wendy Beckett, The Story of Painting

Strathern, The Medici – Godfathers of the Renaissance

Loren Partridge, Art of Renaissance Florence, p94 on

Schneider Adams, Italian Renaissance Art

DVD - Private Life of a Masterpiece Primavera

Leonardo da Vinci

DVD – BBC Leonardo (part 3 on Mona Lisa)

DVD – Every Picture Tells A Story ‘Mona Lisa’ (start 13 mins in)

D, Sassoon (2001) Mona Lisa – The History of the World’s Most Famous Painting

Laurie Schneider Adams Italian Renaissance Art, pp308 – 9

Heaps on this – FIND IT YOURSELF


DVD – BBC The Divine Michelangelo

DVD – The Private Life of a Masterpiece, Michelangelo’s David

Paoletti and Radke, Art In Renaissance Italy p387-89

Hartt p 476-77

Laurie Schneider Adams (2012) Art Beginners Guides, One World Publications pp122-124, 150-151

There are lots of others.

My thoughts at present about what to expect….

Botticelli (dependent on which ptg)



Beautiful, Neo-Platonic = fashionable but quickly grew out of fashion after Savonarola and due to High Renaissance greats stylistically. Penitence and mediation in Florence for 6 years “unseemly” lascivious works burnt.

According to Ficino, classical myths offered key to understanding spiritual and moral continuity between Plato and Christianity

Radiant work, gilded highlights

Canvas for country house, furniture? To be carried easily from house to house therefore valued as decorative?

Wedding commission possibly, therefore value in fertility for prospective couple. Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’Medici married Simonetta Vespucci’s niece. Mala medica

Painted at the peak of his career and of Florentine Neoplatonism

“One of the very few ptgs immediately recog by the general public.” A detail even appears on the back of a 10 cent euro coin.

Mentioned by Giorgio Vasari in Lives – 1550 (first time mentioned in any literature 70years after its creation). Been misnamed, not actually birth

1502 reputation waning. Heavily in debt and sodomy accusations

Pre-Raphaelite interest brings it back. Infl on Burne Jones in partic

Sassoon book is brilliant and traces all the ups and downs of Mona Lisa…..

Value of commissioner to record pregnant wife. Never finished and kept with Leonardo till death in France. Francis puts in bathroom = cracking. Various eye witness accounts of the painting and price recorded in Salai’s inventory at death – price indicates considered valuable. Status due to technique and by Leo’s hand.

Hardly anyone sees ML for 300 years. Napoleon steals. Goes to Louvre in Napoleon’s bedroom. Still not many know of its existence. French Revolution makes its way into more public arena in France. Lucky place to be, next cultural hotspot.

Becomes a femme fatale with Walter Pater etc. Mystery idea created but not till 19th century does interest in her revive. Then she is stolen possibly for forgery purposes or nationalistic. Hits newspapers for weeks. Missing for years = continued publicity. Famous for being famous. JFK visit etc etc Mass produced, bullet proof glass, gallery revenue

Block of marble lying abandoned. Very expensive block of marble but very difficult job too narrow. Already a super feat before started.

Michelangelo works in secret behind wooden structure. Rumours of masterpiece well before finished. Bridges pulled down to bring through Florence. Debate over where to go. Technical feat, work of a genuis

Florentine govt hijacks the work which orig for Church and it becomes a political symbol. Republican values. Moved from orig. location.

Been vandalised, Vasari kept arm. Left outside and weathered for hundreds of years till began to lean forward. Boxed up and put away in courtyard for years where developed purple mould. Copies made. Restored

Arguments over ownership Italy versus Florence. Revenue

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