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AH 11: Visual Culture since 1400 (DiMarzo)

Welcome AH 11

How to Use This Guide

Hello and welcome to the DiMenna-Nyselius Library! My name is Lisa Thornell and I am the librarian who will be helping you begin your research project in class today. You can use this course guide as a starting point for your research in our library research session and for the remainder of the semester.

Research Librarians are here to help you with your assignment so please contact us should you need any assistance. You can stop by the Library Services and Information Desk when you are in the library, contact us via instant message on email, text us at (203) 295-7542, or schedule an individual research appointment. Additional information about library hours, citation help, etc. is located on the library home page

In this assignment you will learn to combine your skills of visual analysis with using library resources to identify, research and answer a question raised by a work of art you have seen at a museum. You can find an image of your artwork and helpful information about it through one of the following links:

Starting Your Research:

This guide will direct you to print and online resources that you will need to use to find relevant materials for your AH11 research paper. Use the steps in the boxes below to refine your research topic before beginning. It will save you time!

Before you even begin your research, find your selected work of art on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website. It is important to have this in front of you so that you can use your formal analysis skills and the details provided in the museum's catalog record to formulate some research topics or questions.

Step 1: Formulating and Clarifying Your Research Topic

The Research Assignment:

Think of questions relating to your chosen work of art in the context of your research assignment requirements (above). These questions may relate to the object's:

  • subject and symbolism
  • historical context
  • style and function

Hint: Doing a thorough visual analysis of the art prior to this will help you generate questions. Also use details from the museum's information associated with the art to inform these questions.

Question Examples:

What interests you about the object? What do you notice?

Think: Who, What, When, Where, Medium, Subject, Composition/style

  •     Who: Who is Juan de Pareja? (subject)
  •     What: What is happening in this painting? (subject)
  •     What: What was going on during de Pareja's lifetime, or at the time this was painted? (historical context)
  •     What: What medium did Velázquez use? (style)
  •     Where: What era & place must I research? (historical context)
  •     Why: Why was the painting made? (function)
  •     What: What distinguishes this artist’s style from others? (style)

Step 2: Gathering Sources

You can use this guide to locate sources that will help answer your questions. 

Look at your research questions and decide what category each one falls into.


If I want to find out information about the Italian Renissance, I would probably start with the historical context tab.

If I want to learn about painting techniques, I would look under the style and function tab first. 

Also, use your research questions to isolate and brainstorm keywords that you can use to search online sources and look up in the index of print sources.

Common Misconceptions About This Assignment

  • I will find sources that refer directly to my work of art and / or artist. Not necessarily / probably not!
  • I will know what my paper thesis is when I begin researching. It's important to ask many questions about the artwork and seek answers to those questions through your research before refining your thesis.
  • I will be able to find all of my sources online. While this guide does include many valuable online sources, in the past, many students have found their best information in print books.

Class Example:

Title: Juan de Pareja (1606–1670)

By: Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez)

Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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