formal analysis of two historical art manuscripts provided from a list

Choose two manuscripts from the list provided of digital facsimiles and identify one page from each that you will focus on for your comparison.

Assignment Goal: The purpose of this writing assignment is to strengthen your ability to translate formal analysis methods into writing.

Assignment Directions:

Step 1: Choose two manuscripts from the list below of digital facsimiles and identify pages from each that you will focus on for your comparison. (Alternatively, you may choose two pages from manuscript images provided by your TA.)

Step 2: Take extensive notes on what you see, i.e. the formal elements of the pages you have chosen. You may want to draw upon the procedures outlined in the formal analysis handout discussed in sections and the accompanying readings (available on CANVAS in Mechanics of Art History folder).

Step 3: Write a formal analysis (1000-1200 words) comparing the formal elements outlined in your notes a meaningful way. You will need to formulate a thesis near the beginning of the paper that explains the visual significance of the formal similarities and/or distinctions you see between the pages of each manuscript and then defend that thesis by discussing the individual elements that make up those similarities and/or distinctions. No outside research is required to complete the assignment.


• Choose manuscript pages that share one or more obvious formal similarities and/or distinctions and focus on those.

• Be specific in your descriptions—the more specific you are in describing formal elements, the deeper your analysis will be.

• Build your thesis on two or three key formal elements instead of trying to compare every visual component of the pages.

• Do not base your argument on a discussion of the artists’ biographies or a summary of the historical context.

• Discuss your thesis with a friend before writing it down—it can be helpful to try and put into words what you see before putting it into writing.