In art history, artworks are often discussed in pairs to stress their similarities and differences from different periods, artists and styles.


In art history, artworks are often discussed in pairs to stress their similarities and differences from different periods, artists and styles. For your comparison paper, you will write a 3-4 page compare/contrast essay. The paper must be typed using a readable font (i.e., Times New Roman in 12 point), 1” margins, double-spaced. Number the pages and put your name at the top of all the pages. Upload a pdf of your paper to this Canvas link (below). Papers are due on the above day. Late papers are not accepted.

For this compare/contrast essay, you will analyze in terms of three main areas: the formal, the historical and the iconographic. You must include the ID information for each work (the label information in the textbook).  

1) Formal: A formal analysis is a verbal description of a visual object. This information can help you determine the identity of the artist, the time period, or the place where a piece was made. This includes the color, the use of line and shape, its size, the use (or lack of) a perspective, the use (or lack of) a canon, the materials used in the piece, the technique the artist choose, and other visual information. At first, you may find it difficult to distinguish between what is important to note and what is not. Use the descriptions given and read in your text and note what is considered relevant. Often, the notable formal elements relate to the other two areas.  

2) Sociological and Historical significance: All works of art reveal something about the historical moment and situation in which it was made. Sometimes the artist intended the piece to refer to a specific event, such as the Narmer Palette from the Egyptian Old Kingdom period, c. 3200 BCE which commemorates the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Sometimes a piece refers to a more general cultural shift, as with pieces from the Amarna period from New Kingdom Egypt, which reflects the change in the religious structure.  

3) Symbolic or Iconographic: many visual elements within an art work, including colors, materials, objects, and patterns, have conventional symbolic meanings, especially in religious and political pieces. Some common examples include the removal of shoes to indicate sacred ground or raised arms to indicate prayer. Iconography creates a complex visual language that can be decoded and read to further understand the artist’s and patron’s intentions within a work.  

When writing a compare/contrast, begin with the earliest artwork. Using an eight-paragraph format, you will cover all three areas of both pieces in the following order:



1) Formal analysis of piece A (the choices are below);              

2) Historical analysis of piece A;              

3) Iconographic analysis of piece A;              

4) Formal analysis of piece B, making reference to the formal analysis of piece A (i.e., While the cave paintings at Lascaux were rendered naturalistically, the figures on the Palette of Narmer followed a strict canon that limited the realism of the bodies.)              

5) Historical analysis of piece B, making reference to the historical analysis of piece A;              

6) Iconographic analysis of piece B, making reference to the iconographic analysis of piece A.   You will also include Introduction and Conclusion paragraphs, for a total of eight paragraphs.


Choose from one of these 3 compare/contrast options:  

1) Saint Francis Altarpiece by Berlinghieri (fig. 14-5) vs. Figure of Saint Mark by Donatello (fig. 16-5)/(Fig. 21-5 in Gardner’s Global ed.) 

2) Annunciation by S. Martini and L. Memmi (fig. 14-14) vs. Merode Altarpiece-Annunciation scene by Campin (fig. 15-4)/(Fig. 20-8 in Gardner’s Global ed.)

3) Peaceful City by A. Lorenzetti (fig. 14-17) vs. Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (October) by Limbourg Brothers (fig. 15-16)/ (Fig. 20-6 in Gardner’s Global ed.)   

An ‘A’ paper usually falls within the 1200 to 1400 word range, and includes details in the analysis. General statements do not earn much in points. 

(You may not choose any other art works for your comparison. You must choose from this list above.)

In art history, artworks are often discussed in pairs to stress their similarities and differences from different periods, artists and styles.

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