Home > Summer School > Summer School 2020 > ARTS & HUMANITIES > Mysteries behind art works


Hilary Hope Guise, professor of art history, Florida State University, lecturer and artist

The world’s most familiar art works can be the most mysterious. Why is Leonardo’s Virgin of the rocks sitting in a dark cave and not on a throne? Why is she embracing John the Baptist and not the Christ child? In Botticelli’s Primavera there is a frieze-like arrangement of classical figures, but do they represent a contemporary political conspiracy for a power-grab on the part of Florence? If we consider The birth of Venus as the sequel, who is Venus? Why is she naked in one painting and pregnant in the other? Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus tells of the earliest Christians in the catacombs and gives us a grim reminder of the massacre of St Bartholomew’s eve. Why are the two women in Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe taking off their clothes in a public park? Was Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon made under the influence of hashish and opium?



1.  Botticelli’s Primavera and its sequel The birth of Venus

2.  Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the rocks

3.  Michelangelo da Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus

4.  Édouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe

5.  Pablo Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon



Date: 20–24 January  
Time: 1.00 pm
COURSE FEES: Full R590.00  Staff & Students R295.00
Venue:  LT1 Kramer Law Building, UCT