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ARTH 1440 Historical Survey of the Arts: Paper 1

This LibGuide covers research strategies and sources for Assignments 1 and 2.

Art & Design Librarian

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Marty Miller
Room 141, LSU Library


ARTH 1440: Historical Survey of the Arts
Paleolithic through Gothic – Caves to Cathedrals
Paper #1 – Observation and Comparison (40.000 BCE to 300 CE)
 Archaeology and art history are based on observation and comparison. For your first paper, you are asked to pick one from among the works of art or architecture that are included in the file “Paper 01 Unknowns.” Choose wisely: you are asked to write an essay on it of about 1,000 words (800 to 1,200 max). The paper should include a detailed description of the work that you pick and a comparison between it and one or two of the works that we have looked at in class and are included in the PowerPoints. The main goal is for you to argue the identity of the “unknown” work of art – in terms of origin, date, author and meaning – on the basis of your own description of it and comparison with one or two “known” works. You do not need to be right – it is not a guessing game – but you need to be convincing, that is, you need to build an argument for the “identity” of the work on the basis of your observations and comparisons. No outside sources on the “unknown” work are needed beyond the image(s) in the file (indeed, they would not help).
Start by looking carefully at the image(s) of the work that you pick and then write a formal analysis of it. Begin with a general description and then move on to more specific elements. Think of describing the work to someone who is not seeing it: by the end, your reader should have a complete mental picture of what the work looks like. Your description should deal with all aspects of the work, such as composition, figures, background, lines, colors, proportions, iconography (i.e. subject matter), size, material, technique, conservation (remark on any signs of damage, incompleteness, restoration), etc. Make the most of the visual information provided by the work itself and point out its inherent aesthetic qualities. Focus your description on the details that you believe are especially relevant and revealing: they may lead you to a particular reading and interpretation of the work.
After you have given a formal analysis of the work as it appears to you, next offer comparative evidence, that is refer to one or two works that you know from class. On the basis of your comparison, add a paragraph or two about possible artist, patron, date and historical context for the “unknown” work. In the end, your analysis may bring up one or two questions that should go into the conclusion of your paper together with a summary of what you have learnt from your in-depth visual description. Keep in mind that this is not intended to be a research paper. The main goal is to exercise your ability to observe, describe in writing, compare and demonstrate your skills at offering an account of relevant visual evidence.
The paper must include 2 to 3 images of the works that you mention with full image captions underneath: artist, title, date, medium, etc. You are asked to include a bibliography with a list of sources (2 to 4) on the comparative evidence that you are referring to in your paper. One of the sources that you list needs to be a page from the website Smarthistory ( - check the “cite this page as” at the end). A starting point in searching for information about the comparative evidence is also the Library Resources Guide
Evaluation will be based on the quality of your description of the work, your formulation and articulation of ideas, the essay’s construction and its overall format and intelligence (see Grading Form below). Remember that a short paper can be harder to write than a long one: it needs to be well constructed with proper introduction and conclusion. Each word must count: be precise but also detailed, choose each word with care, describe accurately and make sure that each sentence says exactly what you mean. Write in full sentences with carefully composed and connected paragraphs. Before submitting the paper, proofread your final draft for correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization and syntax. Include page numbers and, right at the beginning, have your name and a meaningful title for the paper. You are asked to post a digital version of the paper (in Word or PDF format) via Turnitin on Moodle (under Paper #1). The deadline is Thursday, March 12, by 1:30 pm.
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