Universiteit Leiden

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Art, Architecture and Interior before 1800 (MA)

About the programme

In this MA programme you will explore the prominent role of and the interactions between the visual and applied arts and architecture in Medieval and Early Modern societies. You will be able to prepare for a career in research by following a range of specialist seminars with a focus on current debates in art history. For ambitious students we offer internships in high profile organizations and museums to improve your career perspectives.

The Art, Architecture and Interior before 1800 programme has four key themes that are offered only in Leiden in this configuration:

  • Object based research: you will contextualize works of art  from the moment of creation to their present function.
  • Your research will be principally based on primary sources and contemporary artistic theory. You will analyze how art and architecture functioned and was perceived by the public and assessed by critics at the time. Moreover you will  learn how the reception of works of art changed over time.
  • You will study cultural exchanges  between the arts and architecture in the Low Countries and Europe, in the context of economics, politics and religion and their impact on societies.
  • Our MA has a unique interdisciplinary approach. For example, we use methods and concepts from anthropology, literary theory, philosophy and performance studies.

The programme consists of 60 EC, to be completed in one year. Part-time students complete the programme in 1.5 years, and have a course load of 20 EC per semester.

The structure of the programme is the following:

  • Practices and Debates (5 credits)
  • Two Research Seminars from Art, Architecture and Interior before 1800 (20 credits)
  • Free Component (10 credits)
  • Thesis Seminar (5 credits)
  • Thesis (20 credits)

Free component

For the Free Component you can choose any course offered within the MA Arts and Culture, a course on an Arts and Culture subject taught in another MA or an approved internship. Suggestions for the Free Component include the interdisciplinary course Medieval and Early Modern Studies where you will be part of a classroom with students from disciplines such as archaeology, philosophy and history.

Requirements for graduation are:

  • Successful completion of courses, following the structure of the programme (40 EC)
  • Successful completion of MA Thesis (20 EC)

You will need to complete at least 45 EC within your field of specialization:

  • 2 Research seminars from Art, Architecture and Interior before 1800  (20 credits);
  • Thesis seminar (5 EC);
  • Thesis (20 EC).
  • 4 Research seminars from Art, Architecture and Interior before 1800  (20 credits)
  • Thesis seminar (5 EC)
  • Thesis (20 EC)
  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Self-study
  • Field trips
  • Internship options
  • Thesis
  • Exams
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, reports and final thesis
  • Oral presentations

Throughout the MA you can take advantage of Leiden’s proximity to a network of major museums, collections, libraries and research schools, accessing a range of unique texts and works of art. These include:

  • The Rijksmuseum
  • The Mauritshuis
  • Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
  • The Frans Halsmuseum
  • Leiden University Library with its many special collections of prints, drawings and photography
  • RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History

Reinier Baarsen

Professor by special appointment and Curator of Furniture at the Rijksmuseum

Reinier Baarsen

"By studying the history of interior at Leiden, including the abstract art of ornament and the decorative arts in their broadest sense, we deepen and at the same time question the traditional concept of art history."

Stijn Bussels

Professor Art history, especially before 1800

Stijn Bussels

“One of the ways in which I prepare my students for their future career is by teaching them how to tell stories about art. This is an important skill which students can use in various careers, such as in curating exhibitions, policy making, tour guiding in museums and working in auction rooms.“

Elizabeth den Hartog

University Lecturer

Elizabeth den Hartog

"The MA in Arts and Culture curriculum offers students a series of very varied courses that explore subject areas including the theoretical aspects of art, how art has functioned and functions in society, how art, art works, artists and architects travelled, the interaction between the arts and literature, and the materiality of art. Our location in the Netherlands is ideal for a master's in Arts and Culture because we are surrounded by world-renowned historic and contemporary art, which enables us to offer a truly hands-on approach to learning."

Developing critical-thinking skills

"We turn our students into critical thinkers by giving them autonomous research assignments on self-chosen subjects about which they must reflect, form ideas, and debate with fellow students and peers. Our students are encouraged to question assumptions, which helps them develop critical-thinking skills."

Deciphering iconography

"My specific field of interest is the interaction between architecture, art and the viewer in the medieval and early modern period. I love going into a medieval church with my students, deciphering the iconography and working out how the church would have looked in the medieval period, looking for traces of removed art works, altars and the like."  

“Time has taught us that solutions to social problems do not lie in technology, but in human potential. Technological solutions are essential, but so is the significance people attribute to this information through culture or language. Experience shows us that research within the humanities and social sciences often provides these solutions. This is why the research conducted by our humanities faculty is so highly relevant and important. I am very proud of the fact that Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities is one of the world’s leading faculties in the field.”

Broad and relevant research:

“One of this faculty’s strengths is how incredibly broad it is. We conduct a wealth of relevant research in so many different fields and disciplines. We have egyptologists working on excavation sites in Saqqara and the Dakhla Oasis. We have linguists who are documenting, for the first time, languages that are spoken by vast numbers of people in the world today; others creating computer simulations of language acquisition by the brain. The extent and variety of the activity going on is tremendous.”

A stimulating environment

“When you join Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities you are joining a community of passionate, stimulated and ambitious students and staff from all over the world. Our academic environment is known for being conducive to interaction between individuals of all standing: at Leiden even the most junior researcher is treated as a valuable member of the community with important opinions to share. You also gain access to truly unique resources found nowhere else in the world, such as our famous collections at the University Library. Our lecturers and support staff are committed to your success, both now and in the future, and offer you the tools needed to develop into a critically-minded professional who can truly make a difference to the world.”

Latest research

All courses are taught by academics who are active researchers. Content is regularly updated to reflect contemporary academic debates and the very latest insights – in particular from the research conducted by lecturers on the programme.

The programme aims to develop in you essential skills in reasoning and critical thinking, as well as advanced abilities in independently conducting high-quality scientific research and developing this data into an academic dissertation.

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, see the e-Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

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