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AH 10: Origins and Transformations in Western Art (Schwab)

Welcome AH 10

Fall 2017

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

Starting Your Research:

Use the steps in the boxes below to refine your research topic before beginning. It will save you time!

Choose your object from the list of pre-approved list (below).

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:

Choose ONE object from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to form the basis of your paper. Start a list of questions that you can use to guide your research. Be curious about the object. Your research investigation can explore one of several ideas, such as:

  • Select an object in which status or identity can be explored. (What different meanings could the object have? How do details contribute to status or identity?)

  • Public vs private art—for whom was it made? Was it displayed? Why was it made?

  • If the object is fragmentary, try to complete the object using other comparable examples to support your reconstruction.


Expectations: you should be willing to take risks in your inquiry and research, and think boldly.

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 is Exekias? (artist)
  •     What is a kylix? (what)
  •     When did he live? (historical context)
  •     Where? What era & place must I research? (historical context)
  •     What medium did he use? (materials and form)
  •     What is the subject? Who is Dionysus?
  •     Why was it made? (function)
  •     What distinguishes this artist’s style from others?

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 a Greek or Egyptian mythological figure, I would probably start with the subject matter and symbolism tab, and possibly also check the historical context tab afterwards.

If I want to learn about sculpting techniques or how a piece of jewelry was made, 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.

Ask a Librarian

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Research Librarians
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DiMenna-Nyselius Library
Fairfield University

Text: 203.295.7542
Schedule a research appointment

Class Example: Dionysus on Ship with Dolphins by Exekias

Title: Dionysus on ship with dolphins, interior of an Attic black-figure kylix

By: Exekias

Retrived from: ARTstor