Exploring the Spanish Golden Age

Ref: C3528032

What was it like to be a king, a dwarf or a slave in 16th- and 17th-century Spain? In this course we’ll use paintings to explore life at court and on the streets in Spain and the Spanish Netherlands.

Additional information about this course

To enrol, please contact Pat Halliwell at Casa2012wea@gmail.com or ring 01275 875349.

Course aim

The aim is to introduce students to the experiences of people who lived in Spain between 1500 and 1700 through the study of a wide range of paintings.

Who is the course for?

Anyone with an interest in Renaissance history, art and culture.

What topics will this course cover

The art and culture of the period will be revealed by an exploration of: * monarchs and the aristocracy (court portraits) * other members of court (portraits of dwarfs, jesters and children) * life on the streets (portraits of beggars, black slaves, the poor, non-noble children) * everyday culture (still-life paintings and genre scenes) * religious life (paintings and devotional sculpture) Also included will be work by artists based in the Spanish Netherlands, such as Pieter Bruegel.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Interpret paintings for clues about the people and objects portrayed. 2. Better understand court life in early modern Spain. 3. Better understand what life was like for the poor and disadvantaged. 4. Better understand Spain’s links with other parts of Europe, especially England and the Spanish Netherlands/Holland.

How will I know I'm making progress?

* Group question-and-answer sessions. * Discussion and debate. * Quizzes.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Notebook and pen, if students want to take notes.

Reading and information sources

Not essential, but I would recommend Lisa Jardine's 'Worldly Goods' as excellent background reading.

What could the course lead to?

* The course would fit in well with sessions on ‘Reading Paintings’. * Students could go on to study other Renaissance history and art history courses, such as ‘Masters of the Northern Renaissance’.

Download full course outline

Exploring the Spanish Golden Age Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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