17th-Century Dutch and Flemish Art: Rubens to Rembrandt to Vermeer


This course looks at masterpieces of Flemish and Dutch art in the 17th century: Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Frans Hals, Judith Leyster, Rembrandt and Vermeer. Early 20th century art history books show us that the innovations of the 17th century Northern European art scene were over shadowed by their Italian counterparts.

Today, art historians celebrate the innovations of the art of the 17th century European North, previously known as the Dutch Golden Age. In 2020, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, focussed on the drawings of the young Rembrandt, while in 2023-24, two London museums present monograph exhibitions on Frans Hals and Rubens.

This course will explore the portraits of nobility by van Dyck to the portraiture of everyday people by Hals and Judith Leyster, the latter a female tour-de-force. Northern artists could be argued to be among the first to create a series of ‘selfies’. Throughout his life, Rembrandt recorded his appearance and psyche in a series of penetrating self-portraits. We will indulge in depictions of carnal passions by Rubens and find household bliss as painted by Vermeer.

In the end, who can resist the girl with the pearl earring by Vermeer?

This course is part of the Inspiring Oxford summer school.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

Introduction: the innovations of the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries) & the Baroque (17th century) in the North of Europe.

Pomp, legends and passions: Van Dyck & Rubens.

Laughter and sadness: portraits and self-portraits by Rembrandt, Frans Hals & Judith Leyster.

Field trip: Ashmolean Museum public galleries (Flemish and Dutch Art Galleries) & Ashmolean Western Art Print Room private view of drawings by Rubens/Rembrandt, etc.

Vermeer & the real housewives of the Dutch painting in the 17th century. Conclusion

Field Trip
Destination: Ashmolean Museum public galleries and Ashmolean Western Art Print Room private view

Website: www.ashmolean.org

Excursion Rating: Moderate - up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals per person) £2295.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals per person) £1965.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals per person) £2145.00
Fee option 4 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner per person) £1610.00


Please note there are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.

If submitting an enrolment form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Extended stay fee

Participants staying multiple, consecutive weeks will be charged an additional bed and breakfast fee for the cost of the Saturday night between courses.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to inspiringoxford@conted.ox.ac.uk, or by post to Inspiring Oxford, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid. 

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2024 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2024 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2024 - no refunds will be made under any circumstances.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

Where there is good reason, OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course by giving you notice in writing at any time before the course is due to start. In these cases, we will endeavour to offer a transfer to another available course if practical and acceptable to you, subject to payment or refund of any difference in course fees. Alternatively, we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred. The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2024. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, anyone affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2024, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course at short notice in exceptional circumstances that would prevent the course from being delivered e.g. tutor illness. In these rare instances, and if we are unable to find a replacement tutor, we will notify you as soon as possible and arrange a transfer to another available Inspiring Oxford course. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

3. Travel insurance

All participants must purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred. OUDCE cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. 


Dr Manya Pagiavla


Dr Manya Pagiavla is a Lecturer in History of Renaissance Art at the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford. She holds a PhD in history of Renaissance art/architecture. In the past, she taught at the University of Cambridge, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Christie’s Education. A High/Late Renaissance expert, her research is on architectural history in Venice (Serlio, Palladio and D. Barbaro's Vitruvius), and on the artists' library inventories/marginalia. Further teaching interests include the Northern Renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age and 19th-century art/architecture. Her latest publication is on the library of Leonardo da Vinci, co-authored with Martin Kemp, University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Staff and Educational Development Association Recognised Teacher.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 16 people, teaching methods used during this course may include:

  • Physical handouts
  • Seminars/group discussions
  • Field Trip

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


The deadline for registration has been extended to 17 June 2024. Please be aware that payment deadlines may also change.

Single accommodation may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page. 

If you would like a twin en suite room, please send us a completed enrolment form that names the other course participant you will be sharing with. Please note these rooms have limited availability.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at inspiringoxford@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Level and demands

Inspiring Oxford is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Brasenose College, in the heart of the city in buildings overlooked by the iconic Radcliffe Camera. Please note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished and do not have air-conditioning. 

You can find out more about Brasenose by visiting their website.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite
  • Twin en suite: shared between participants that apply to the programme together
  • Standard single: bathrooms are shared between, on average, four participants
  • a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have lunch and dinner at Brasenose, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

    Non-residential participants are encouraged to attend all aspects of the academic and social programme, and they have equal access to Brasenose as residential participants.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet).