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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

M.A. in Art History, Florence Program in Italian Renaissance Art

Florence, Italy skyline

Since 1964, the Department of Art & Music Histories (formerly the Department of Fine Arts) at Syracuse University has offered a unique master's program devoted to the study of Italian Renaissance art based in Florence. This is the oldest M.A. art history program accredited in the United States where most of the study—two of three semesters—is conducted in Italy.

Although the Florence M.A. Program’s focus is early modern Italian art, students are encouraged to think broadly about the period and the discipline of art history. Via seminars that are led by internationally recognized scholars and conservators, students carefully analyze artistic styles and techniques, consider issues related to original audiences and settings, and closely study original documents and texts. In addition, they engage with the history and practice of art conservation, art historical theories, methods, and historiography, the collection and display of art, and the ways in which the visual culture of the period relates to larger Mediterranean and global historical and artistic contexts.

The small size of the Program (approximately six participants per year) ensures that professors work closely with each student to create a rigorous and dynamic intellectual experience.

Program participants typically have pursued undergraduate studies in cultural history with an emphasis on the visual arts and ideally have a working knowledge of Italian or a background in another Romance language. Students accepted to the program who have not had the opportunity to study Italian are encouraged to begin to do so prior to their first semester of graduate study through programs such as the summer Italian School offered by Middlebury College or Wellesley College’s online AP® Italian Language and Culture course.

We are pleased to offer various levels of financial support that consist of:

  • Florence Fellowships (full tuition and a generous stipend)
  • Kress-Florence Legacy Fellowships (partial tuition and a substantial stipend)
  • Partial tuition scholarships

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Study in Florence

A view of Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, in Florence, Italy.

The Syracuse Florence campus (SF) is a fifteen-minute walk from Florence Cathedral, which is located in the center of the city. SF is one of the oldest and largest U.S. university campuses in Italy and is fully up-to-date in terms of its computing facilities and wireless network. Florence art history graduate students have their own study in the SF library, and all graduate seminars are held either in smart classrooms or on site in museums, churches, palaces, archives, and restoration labs. The library is specialized in art history and has over 12,000 volumes. Complemented by SU Libraries' extensive print and online resources, students also have access to some of the finest libraries in the world for the study of Italian Renaissance art and history, including those at the Kunsthistorisches Institut, the Berenson Library at Harvard University’s Villa I Tatti, the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento at Palazzo Strozzi, and the Biblioteca Nazionale.

Conducting research at these and other institutions and attending lectures, conferences, and other events held in Florence, provide students with an unparalleled opportunity to meet members of the international scholarly community and participate in and contribute to the lively intellectual life of the city.

Sample Program Structure

The first semester of coursework is taken on Syracuse University’s home campus in Syracuse, New York. The following two semesters of coursework are taken at Syracuse University’s campus in Florence. All graduate seminars require critical readings of both primary and secondary sources, oral presentations, independent research, and written work.

The courses listed below are subject to change, depending on staffing. For official requirements, please consult the Course Catalog.

1. First Semester (fall), Syracuse University in New York

  • HOA 620, Seminar: Renaissance Art, 3 credit hours, taught by Prof. Sally J. Cornelison.  Tentative topic for fall 2020: "Art & Court Culture in the Late Renaissance Italy."
  • HST 735, Readings and Research in European History, 3 credit hours, taught by Prof. Brian Brege.
  • HOA 656, The Literature of Art Criticism, 3 credit hours, taught by Prof. Samuel Johnson.

If necessary, students also audit Italian classes to achieve an appropriate level of language proficiency.

2. Second Semester (spring), Syracuse Florence

  • HOA 621, Seminar in Florentine Art: Florentine Monuments, Contexts, and Audiences, 1300-1600, 3 credit hours, taught by Professor Molly Bourne
  • HST 735.2, Readings and Research in European History, 3 credit hours, taught by Professor Matteo Duni
  • HOA 620, Seminar: Renaissance Art, “Florence as a Mediterranean Center,” 3 credit hours, taught by Prof. Sean Nelson.
  • HOA 622, Seminar in Renaissance Arts and Ideas, 3 credit hours, taught by Profs. Molly Bourne and Jonathan Nelson. A “flex long” course that lasts into the summer. In this class students are introduced to the rich research resources available in Florence and identify and begin to work on their capstone research projects.

Students are expected to take full advantage of SF’s field trip program.

3. Late Spring and Summer

At the conclusion of the spring semester, students are required to take a non-credit course that introduces them to the basics of archival research and paleography. The course, taught by a renowned archivist, lasts two weeks and is conducted at the Florentine State Archives.

In addition, students continue to work on their capstone topics for HOA 622. Students are encouraged, but not required, to remain in Florence for the summer component of this course. At the end of July, students submit the first draft of their capstone papers.

4. Third Semester (fall), Syracuse Florence

  • HOA 620, Seminar: Renaissance Art, "Botticelli and Filippino in the 15th and 19th Centuries," 3 credit hours, taught by Prof. Jonathan Nelson.
  • HOA 645, Seminar in the History of Art Conservation, 3 credit hours, taught by Profs. Ezio Buzzegoli and Diane Kunzelman.
  • HOA 622, Seminar in Renaissance Arts and Ideas, taught by Profs. Molly Bourne and Jonathan Nelson. This seminar is a continuation of the “flex long” section of HOA 622 taught the previous spring and summer. In this course, students complete their capstone papers and develop and rehearse the scripts for the twenty-minute presentations they deliver at the Program’s annual symposium.

Have a question?

For more information, contact Prof. Sally Cornelison (, Director of the Florence Graduate Program in Italian Renaissance Art.