The MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture is offered by the Warburg Institute in collaboration with the National Gallery, London. The purpose of the programme is to provide high-level linguistic, archive and research skills for a new generation of academic art historians and museum curators. The art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute are linked to the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students either as academic art historians with serious insight into the behind the scenes working of a great museum or as curators with the research skills necessary for high-level museum work.

This twelve-month, full-time programme provides an introduction to: 

  • Museum knowledge, which covers aspects of curatorship including the technical examination of paintings, connoisseurship, materials and conservation, attribution, provenance and issues relating to display.
  • Art history and Renaissance culture to increase students’ understanding of methods of analysing the subjects of works of art and their knowledge of Renaissance art works and the conditions in which they were commissioned, produced and enjoyed.
  • Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.

The programme will be taught through classes and supervision by members of the academic staff of the Warburg Institute and by National Gallery curatorial and archival experts. The teaching staff of the Warburg Institute are leading academics in their field who have published widely and are involved with research related to the topics they teach.

> Course Handbook


Entry requirements

The normal minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree from a British university, or an equivalent qualification from a foreign institution, in any discipline in the humanities which is related to the course.

In addition to a good knowledge of Art History, especially related to the Renaissance, a reading knowledge of one and preferably two European modern languages, apart from English, is required. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study. 


Structure and Assessment

The course begins in early October with a Foundation Week, in which students will be introduced to the main topics and themes to be covered over the year. The course is structured around five related activities:

  • Language, paleographical and archive skills
  • Museum knowledge
  • Art history and Renaissance culture
  • A dissertation of 15,000 words
  • Participation in the broader intellectual activities of the Warburg Institute
  • All students will take three core modules and two elective modules.

Students will also be encouraged to attend the Director’s weekly seminar on Work in Progress and any of the other regular seminars held in the Institute that may be of interest to them. The third term and summer will be spent in researching and writing a dissertation, under the guidance of a supervisor from the academic staff of the Warburg Institute or a member of staff from the National Gallery.

Core modules include language and paleography classes, which will be selected following an individual language audit for each student, and are spread over two terms. The optional subjects will vary from year to year and students must select at least one in an art historical field. The following courses are offered in 2015–16.

Core modules

  • Art History – Iconology | Dr Joanne Anderson
  • Curatorship in the National Gallery | Curatorial, conservation and scientific staff of the National Gallery, including Dr Ashok Roy, Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, Mr Larry Keith and Ms Rachel Billinge
  • Language, Paleographical and Archive Skills | Various tutors for language/palaeography, Dr Claudia Wedepohl (The Warburg Institute) and Mr Alan Crookham (National Gallery) for archive skills

Optional modules (two to be chosen)

  • „The History of the Book in the Renaissance | Dr Raphaële Mouren
  • Imagination, Fantasy and Delusion: Renaissance Philosophy and the Challenges of Representation | Dr Guido Giglioni
  • Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures, 1400-1500 | Dr Joanne Anderson
  • Maps and Mapping | Dr Alessandro Scafi
  • Renaissance Material Culture | Dr Rembrandt Duits
  • Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation | Professor Alastair Hamilton


Teaching, learning and assessment 

The usual format for classes is a weekly seminar. All students are required to submit three essays of 4,000 words, one at the beginning of the second term and the remaining two at the beginning of the third term. A dissertation of 15,000 words, on a topic agreed by the student and supervisor, has to be submitted by 30 September. 

The course is examined on these four pieces of written work, a catalogue entry (submitted at the end of the first term), and examinations in language, palaeographical and archive skills. Students are allocated a course tutor and, in addition, are encouraged to discuss their work with other members of the staff at the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery. 

Because of the small numbers involved (places are limited to 12 per year), students have unusually frequent contact, formal and informal, with their teachers. 

The mode of study is 12 months full-time.


English Requirement

All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence (gained in the last two years) that their written and spoken English language is adequate for postgraduate study. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties and that students are able to integrate socially while studying and living in the UK.

Further information can be found on the English language competency section of our Entry Requirements page.


Course Aims

The MA programme aims to:

  • Bring together the art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute with the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students to become academic art historians with serious insight into the work of a great museum, or curators with the research skills necessary for museum work.
  • Provide linguistic, archive and research skills to enable graduates of the programme to research, catalogue and curate works of art held in collections of national and international standing.
  • Enable students to understand the general issues involved in curating, conserving and presenting paintings in a museum or gallery context.
  • Build understanding of and ability to comment on primary source materials, both visual and textual.
  • Enable students to read critically academic papers and publications in at least two European languages, and to undertake scholarly research at a high level and write up the results in an accurate and rigorous way.
  • Help students to acquire a familiarity with the principal sources of information in a variety of historical disciplines. 


What our students say

The course has been a wonderful experience. The classes, such as Iconology, Palaeography, Material Culture and Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation, have broadened my knowledge, whilst the language skills I’ve developed have enabled me to pursue topics that I would never have been able to tackle before. The National Gallery module has been an invaluable experience, which not only allowed us to get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at such a prestigious museum but also to learn about curatorial practice. The other students, all from different backgrounds, have become great friends and helped create a stimulating learning environment. The staff, both at the Institute and at the National Gallery, have been extremely supportive and generous with their time making this experience a truly unique one.

- A recent student, Lorenza Gay from Italy, describes her experience of the MA course.