Master of Arts in Art History

Master of Arts in Art History

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John Cabot University’s Master of Arts (MA) in Art History guides students toward professional mastery of the materials and methods of art history with emphasis on first-hand research in the museums, monuments, and archaeological sites of Rome. The degree can be completed in approximately fifteen months of full-time study. 

The program has a dual focus: the visual cultures of Rome and the Mediterranean across time, from antiquity to the present; and the acquisition of technical skills for primary research. It also stimulates critical perspectives on the impact of Roman art worldwide. 

The MA welcomed its inaugural class in Fall semester 2017. It is the first graduate degree program in art history based entirely in Rome offered by a U.S. accredited university.

Scroll down to read more about the outstanding location of our classrooms. 

Read an interview and watch a webinar with Prof. Lila Yawn, Director of the MA in Art History. 

FACULTY

Seminars and courses for the MA are taught by professors of art history from John Cabot University’s Department of Art History. Faculty members teaching for the MA come from diverse national backgrounds and hold PhDs and other advanced degrees in art history and archaeology from leading institutions, including the Courtauld Institute, the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, the Universities of Oxford, Chicago, Munich, Pennsylvania, and Edinburgh, Duke University, Boston University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All have a long experience of Rome, of Italy, and of art-historical inquiry. 

Faculty research specializations span the chronological range from classical antiquity to the present, concentrating on subjects as diverse as Mannerist painting, ancient Roman portraiture, medieval manuscript illumination, Baroque antiquarianism, nineteenth-century American art criticism, and contemporary photography in Europe and in Africa. Research Seminars are periodically enriched by the participation of prominent guest lecturers from other universities, foreign academies, museums, and learned societies.

Degree Program

Taught by John Cabot University’s international faculty, the degree program can be completed in three semesters of full-time study (Fall-Spring-Fall) and an intervening summer. It unfolds in three phases: a structured Foundation Year (Fall-Spring); a Master’s Exam (Summer); and a Thesis Semester (Fall). 

Seminars and courses take place at John Cabot University’s campuses in the centrally-located Trastevere district of Rome and in nearby Roman museums, churches, palaces, monuments, archaeological parks, archives, rare book libraries, restoration labs, study collections, artists’ workshops, public installations, and contemporary art galleries. These venues of visual culture and documentation constitute the laboratory of the degree. Some courses involve travel to other parts of Italy—for example, to Naples, Florence, or Assisi.

The building hosting the Center for Graduate Studies dates back to 1495. It was built as a home for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the future Pope Paul III. In the first half of the 19th century, it passed on to the powerful Bourbon family. Since 1934 it has been part of the adjacent Accademia dei Lincei, the oldest academy in the world dedicated to the study of the humanities and natural sciences. Galileo Galilei, Enrico Fermi and Vito Volterra were among its members.

Learn About

During the Foundation Year (Fall-Spring or Fall-Spring-Summer) students complete twenty-four credit hours of coursework:

  • Six graduate-level courses in the history of art and architecture (eighteen credit hours total), including at least three graduate research seminars and one seminar or topics course focused on each of four periods: Antiquity; the Middle Ages; Early Modernity (i.e. Renaissance-Baroque); and the Modern and Contemporary era. Students choose from an array of dedicated, graduate-level courses and seminars in consultation with the MA Director.

  • Two methodological foundations courses (six credit hours total): Case Studies in Art-Historical Practice (Fall); and Practicum in Art-Historical Research and Problem Solving (Spring). Required of all MA students, these courses cultivate methodological dexterity, problem solving, and technical skills as a basis for innovative research.

The Foundation Year also includes a cultural events attendance component: each student attends and reviews at least ten scholarly lectures, conferences, exhibitions, or other approved events over the course of the academic year. Rome is especially rich in opportunities for extraordinary intellectual expansion and enrichment thanks to its unique wealth of foreign scholarly academies, learned societies, universities, embassies, museums, and libraries, each with its own public programming.

By the end of the Foundation Year, students must demonstrate reading knowledge of one of the principal languages of European art history: Italian, French, or German.

During the summer (mid-May through late August), students sit for a Master’s exam (administered in June). The Master’s exam tests mastery of the basic image-repertoire, chronology, and methodologies of art history, with emphasis on Rome and related cultures. The remainder of the summer can be devoted to coursework, thesis research, research-related travel, internships in or outside of Rome, supplementary language training, or other professional or educational activities. MA Students have access to JCU’s Frohring Library and other university facilities through the summer.

The degree culminates in the completion of a Master’s thesis (six credit hours) during the Thesis Semester (Fall). The thesis is typically based on a research project initiated during the Foundation Year in the context of a graduate research seminar or topics course. It concentrates on primary source material (objects, buildings, excavations, documents) and is written under the guidance of a professor from the John Cabot University art history faculty.

Thesis Colloquium (three credit hours) accompanies and structures the thesis-writing experience. Colloquium participants present and discuss their research in progress; invite prominent guest professors to speak and critique their work; and prepare and deliver public presentations of their theses. Students may register for the Master’s thesis and colloquium upon fulfilling all requirements of the Foundation Year and passing the Master’s exam with a grade of C or higher.

During this final semester (or the preceding summer), MA candidates complete an Art-Historical Apprenticeship (three credit hours). The apprenticeship may take the form of a teaching or research assistantship at John Cabot University or of an internship at a museum, research institute, historic library, school, gallery, or foundation. The University currently has internship agreements with a range of cultural entities, including the Polo Museale della Città di Roma, the British School at Rome, the Norwegian Institute, Tevereterno, and the Biblioteca Angelica.

  • Graduate Research Seminars are research-intensive colloquia focused on specialized themes devised to stimulate original student research. They begin with the reading of a discrete body of scholarly sources and the examination of primary source material and proceed to the development of a focused research project, presentation, and paper by each seminar participant. Weekly seminar meetings are devoted to analyzing readings; examining art and other primary materials in museums, libraries, or laboratories; and presenting and discussing the results of individual research.

  • Topics courses structure the acquisition of visual and historical information and research skills pertinent to specific artistic styles, media, genres, artists, or critical phenomena. Their formats vary. Most involve some combination of lectures, guided readings, site visits, and the researching and writing of a substantial paper.

    Sample course themes include Ancient Roman and Mediterranean mural painting; illuminated manuscripts of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages; erotic art in the Renaissance; and the valorization of contemporary visual culture. See course descriptions.

  • Methodological Foundations Courses required of all MA students:

    - Case Studies in Art-Historical Practice is a team-taught course focused on exemplary works of art-historical scholarship. Readings are selected to illustrate the diverse methods developed for studying the arts of different eras (Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern/Contemporary), with their distinct problems and bodies of evidence, and to bring out possibilities for useful methodological borrowings across traditional chronological boundaries.

    - The Practicum in Art-Historical Research and Problem Solving provides a hands-on introduction to research from the primary record, with units on media and materials, object handling, documentation and record-keeping, archive and library navigation, palaeography and transcription, and bibliographic, digital, and technical resources for the professional art historian.

  • Reading Knowledge of a Foreign Language: Given the polyglot nature of art-historical literature, before registering for the Master’s thesis MA students must demonstrate the ability to read Italian, French, or German at the B2 (upper intermediate) level or higher in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This component can be satisfied by passing a language exam administered by the John Cabot University Foreign Language Resource Center or by presenting a B2-level certificate from an approved language school or testing service (CILS, DELF/DALF, etc.)

    Applicants whose first language is Italian, French, or German or who hold a BA or the equivalent from a university where the language of instruction is Italian, French, or German are exempt from this requirement. Although language courses do not count toward the MA, students needing further language preparation may register for JCU courses in Italian, French, or German.

The degree can be completed in approximately fifteen months of full-time study (intensive format, with thesis and internship) or over the course to two academic years (biennial format, with thesis and two internships). Full-time students choose freely which timetable to follow and commit to it at the beginning of the program. 

The intensive format is most advisable for those who enter the MA with a strong academic record and substantial background in art history. Students with their own right to live in Italy independent of student status may opt for part-time study.

INTENSIVE FORMAT

Fall semester

  • Methods (3 credit hours) 
  • Two topics courses and one research seminar (9 credit hours total) 
  • Cultural events reviews 
  • Language exam (may also be taken in Spring) 

Spring semester

  • Methods (3 credit hours) 
  • One topics course and two research seminars (9 credit hours total) 
  • Cultural events reviews 
  • Language exam (if not taken in Fall) 

Summer term

  • MA Exam (late May) 
  • Independent thesis research 

Fall semester

  • MA Thesis Registration (6 credit hours) 
  • MA Thesis Colloquium (3 credit hours)
  • Professional Experience (3 credit hours) 

BIENNIAL FORMAT

Fall semester

  • Methods (3 credit hours) 
  • Two area courses, including at least one research seminar (6 credit hours total)
  • Cultural events reviews 
  • Language exam (can also be taken in Spring) 

Spring semester

  • Methods (3 credit hours)
  • Two area courses, including at least one research seminar (6 credit hours total)
  • Cultural events reviews 
  • Language exam (if not taken in Fall)

Summer term

  • MA Exam (late May) 
  • Two area courses, including at least one research seminar (6 credit hours total)

Fall semester

  • MA Thesis Registration (3 credit hours) 
  • MA Thesis Colloquium (3 credit hours) 
  • Professional Experience (3 credit hours) - optional

Spring semester

  • MA Thesis Registration (3 credit hours)
  • Professional Experience (3 credit hours) - required 

Applicants who are EU citizens or who have an Italian permit of stay (permesso di soggiorno) are eligible for admission as part-time students. Part-time students take between three and nine credit hours per term and are allowed four years to complete all degree requirements.

Inverting conventional practice, John Cabot University’s MA in Art History begins by scrutinizing material objects and built environments in person, rather than through photographs. With this point of departure, it cultivates visual-contextual analysis and skills for primary research while stimulating alternative perspectives on deeply rooted disciplinary habits. What happens, for instance, when we turn away from comparisons chosen to demonstrate clear patterns and chronological sequences and attend instead to the untidy fragments that emerge from a newly excavated archaeological site? How does the experience of a building in continuous use for two thousand years challenge ideas about historical periodization or the ways objects acquire and convey meaning? 

The degree is designed to serve as a foundation for art-historical careers in museums, galleries, schools, art consultancies, art publishing houses, and related entities; as preparation for Ph.D. (doctoral) level study in the history of art at other institutions; as continuing education for teachers of art history, history, classical studies, and related subjects; or as career enhancement for current and future professionals in areas where primary research skills and expertise in Roman visual culture offer creative advantages and possibilities for specialization. Examples include library and information science, cultural heritage management, historical fiction and script writing, scenography, art conservation, and game design.

Contact Us 

For further inquiries about the MA program contact: [email protected]

If you wish to apply, please contact: [email protected]

 

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This program has absolutely set us up for success both as future academics and working professionals.

Madeline Sterns

Madeline Sterns (MA Class of 2023)

Madeline Sterns

This program has absolutely set us up for success both as future academics and working professionals. A PhD doesn't seem as daunting as I once believed because this MA has done so much to immerse us in the process of investigative research.

Madeline Sterns (MA Class of 2023)
Madeline Sterns
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Professor Crispin Corrado’s course really taught me what research means and how rewarding it is.

Bernat Racz

Bernat Racz (MA Class of 2021)

Bernat Racz

I have enjoyed everything about this program, but I would say that overcoming academic challenges and improving my skills every day was something that I truly value, even if it was difficult sometimes. For example, In Prof. Corrado’s course, I was able to take a section of the city and explore the connections between the monuments and other buildings of the urban fabric. It was a fascinating process because I had to organize primary sources, secondary sources, monuments, and sites in order to see the city as it was. It really taught me what research means and how rewarding it is.

Bernat Racz (MA Class of 2021)
Bernat Racz
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For me, to become part of a community of people with the same interests, both fellow students and professors, was and still is an invaluable gift.

Laura Weinstein

Laura Weinstein (MA Class of 2018)

Laura Weinstein

For me, to become part of a community of people with the same interests, both fellow students and professors, was and still is an invaluable gift. Being a graduate student at JCU was similar to when I worked at National Geographic – I felt my brain expanding on a daily basis.  I relish being around kindred spirits who love art and ancient history... When I worked with tourists I was the teacher, and that is a thrill, but at JCU I was the student again, learning from others much more experienced.

Laura Weinstein (MA Class of 2018)
Laura Weinstein
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My favorite aspect of the program was the large number of faculty members who are not only specialized in a variety of fields and time periods, but also intimately familiar with Rome.

Lindsay Maldari

Lindsay Maldari (MA Class of 2021)

Lindsay Maldari

My favorite aspect of the program was the large number of faculty members who are not only specialized in a variety of fields and time periods, but also intimately familiar with Rome, its museums, monuments, and archives. I consider it an incredible privilege to study with professors who are critically engaged in their fields and who make sure that students benefit from the unparalleled on-site learning opportunities that are available in a city as historically rich as Rome.

Lindsay Maldari (MA Class of 2021)
Lindsay Maldari
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Being in Rome is incredible. You’re so close to art and so many different avenues of culture. Our professors are wonderful, and they love working with students.

Mamie Murphy

Mamie Murphy (MA Class of 2024)

Mamie Murphy

I would definitely recommend this program because being in Rome is incredible. You’re so close to art and so many different avenues of culture. There’s always something going on and something to learn about. Our professors are wonderful, and they love working with students. They are there to help us at every step of the way.

Mamie Murphy (MA Class of 2024)
Mamie Murphy

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Watch MA alumni share their research about the history of Trastevere’s neighborhood