Europe’s Art Treasures Revealed

A 10-week course: 12th January - 22nd March 2024. Fridays 11.00AM-12.45PM GMT


Join our new 10-week online course and explore some of Europe’s most outstanding art treasures, from drawings in the Ashmolean Museum and Holbein’s portraits in the Royal Collection, to architectural masterpieces by Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner.  Our unique, interactive classes combine lectures with livestream tours broadcast direct from museums around the world, led by expert art historians, archaeologists and guides.

There is a special emphasis on exclusive visits, or hidden gems which are not easily accessible or so well-known. These include a private tour of the current restoration project at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, live from the conservators’ platform, enabling you to view Tintoretto’s Crucifixion as never before!

Lectures are given by National Gallery lecturer Siân Walters with guest speakers including the Director of the Wallace Collection, Dr Xavier Bray and Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum, Dr Jennifer Sliwka.


Each week we will explore a different collection, museum or work of art.

We have arranged exclusive, live access to a number of museums in Europe including the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice. The vast canvases by Tintoretto which cover the walls and ceiling of the building represent one of the most ambitious artistic projects of the 16th century. Join us here for the world’s first livestream tour, as we explore how these dramatic paintings reflected the activities of their patrons and influenced generations of artists including El Greco, who famously praised Tintoretto’s Crucifixion as being “the greatest painting in the world”. This painting is currently undergoing conservation treatment, and we have been given special permission to visit the project from the conservators’ platform and invite you to take part in a live Q&A session with the restorers. 

The Wallace Collection is without doubt one of the finest museums in Britain, comprising extraordinary examples of paintings, furniture, armour and objets d’art which are displayed in an elegant townhouse bequeathed to the nation by Sir Richard Wallace in 1897.  In a lecture broadcast live from the museum, its Director Dr Xavier Bray will discuss some of the lesser-known treasures from the collection and take your questions.

Dr Jennifer Sliwka, Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum, will explore the fascinating history of the museum, from its origins as a collection of curiosities and scientific instruments to a world-class museum of art and archaeology. Explore its hidden treasures, from a unique embroidered deer-hide mantle, to exquisite drawings by Michelangelo and Raphael which are not normally on public display, for reasons of conservation.

There will also be a live broadcast from the Gaetano Filangieri Museum in Naples, situated in the Palazzo Cuomo, built between 1464 and 1490 by the Florentine architect Giuliano da Maiano for a wealthy merchant, Angelo Como. The Filangieri museum is a hidden jewel of Neapolitan culture, an enchanted and ancient place that celebrates the splendour and antique opulence of old Naples. It contains around three thousand works, including sculptures, weapons, porcelain, majolica, furniture, clothes, a rich library, a historical archive, and paintings by artists such as Jusepe de Ribera, Bernardino Luini and Luca della Robbia. Our tour will be led the esteemed archaaologist and guide, Dr Raffaele Romano.

The course includes a guided walk through Holbein at the Tudor Court, broadcast out-of-hours from The Queen’s Gallery in London. This exhibition brings together over 100 drawings, paintings, miniatures and book illustrations and represents the largest group of Holbein’s works from the Royal Collection to be exhibited in over 30 years. Featuring exquisite preparatory drawings, often alongside the finished painted portraits, the exhibition traces the artist’s career in England and enables us to come face to face with many of the key figures of the Tudor court, from Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour to Sir Thomas More and Sir Henry Guildford.

A highlight of the course will be a live tour, broadcast direct from two of Barcelona’s UNESCO buildings: the Hospital of Santa Creu and Sant Pau, a truly hidden gem, and the iconic Basilica of Sagrada Família. The former Hospital of Sant Pau is the largest Art Nouveau complex in the world and was designed by the brilliant architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, a professor of Gaudí. An army of the best craftsmen of the time created this architectural jewel which recently reopened as a museum, including sculptors, glaziers, carpenters, stonemasons, and ironsmiths. After this exceptional visit, our guide Guille will take us to the nearby Basilica of the Sagrada Família, the masterpiece of “organic architect” Antoni Gaudí.

The magnificent Hôtel d’Assézat in Toulouse was built from 1555 for a rich local merchant Pierre d’Assézat who made his fortune from woad, a plant used in dyeing fabrics. It now houses the private Bemberg Foundation, an outstanding private collection of art including works by Canaletto, Vigée le Brun, Clouet, Cranach, Titian and Monet.  Our lecture explores highlights of painting, sculpture, graphic arts, furniture and objets d’art in this exquisite yet lesser-known collection, and coincides with the reopening of the museum in early 2024 after a period of renovation.

Another lecture will explore a number of newly designed galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which display the museum’s extraordinary collection of medieval and Renaissance treasures.  The objects displayed in these seven galleries vividly illustrate the complex and fascinating political, economic and social history of Europe from the decline of the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Renaissance.

We also enjoy a lecture focusing on one of the hidden jewels of Renaissance Florence, the Medici Chapel. The chapel is located at the heart of one of the most important buildings in Florence, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, created by Cosimo de Medici  in 1444 to serve as the family residence. Its frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, representing ‘The Procession of the Magi’, are a manifestation of patrician magnificence, whose brilliant colours, evocative portraits and intricately painted details of plants, animals and birds still dazzle the viewer as they would have done 500 years ago.

Matthias Grünewald. The Isenheim Altarpiece (detail). Musée Unterlinden, Colmar. Photo - Jean Louis MazieresOur final lecture is dedicated to one of the most intriguing and moving paintings in the history of Western Art. The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald is a vast polyptych now found in the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, but originally created between 1512 and 1516 for a monastic complex dedicated to Saint Anthony in nearby Isenheim. It was displayed in the hospital chapel where the monks devoted themselves to caring for patients suffering from Saint Anthony’s fire, a disease caused by ergot poisoning which affected the skin. The painting’s multiple wings were designed to be opened at different times of the liturgical calendar, and their powerful iconography was designed to both empathise with the physical suffering of the patients, and offer them hope of redemption.


All lectures and museum broadcasts are live and interactive, allowing you to ask questions.  Siân and all her expert colleagues are known for their informative but informal approach, combining erudite commentary with an entertaining and approachable delivery.  The sessions, streamed on Zoom Webinar, will enable you to gain special access to museums and galleries whilst at the same time providing a wonderful opportunity to travel virtually from home.

– A full course outline and reading list will be emailed to all attendees approximately one week before the first session. The date of each lecture described above will be confirmed in the outline. Students also receive an informal weekly newsletter with news, reading suggestions, recipes and website links.

– Live streamed sessions are on Friday mornings and run from 11.00am – 12.45 (UK time). There is no session on 16th February (half-term).

– Tune in from anywhere in the world or enjoy a recorded version if you cannot watch live. A link to the recording will be sent soon after the end of the session if you cannot attend, enabling you to watch on catch up after the session any time until Monday at midnight (UK time). Please note that recordings are only available to those who miss a live session.

– You are welcome to join the course at any point however, please note that you will only be able to see the recording from the previous session if you join after the course start date.

– Our guided tours use the most up-to-date technology to provide you with the best possible virtual experience. You will feel as though you are exploring the museums yourself with the running commentary given by our guides, with the possibility of admiring details of the artworks in high resolution as we move around the rooms.

– The cost includes museum entrance fees and filming permits. Our visits will also support both galleries and individuals working in the cultural sector, and a percentage of the course price is also reserved for charitable donations.

– Please refer to the Further Information panel below for booking details.

 – Please book at least 48 hours before the course commences in order to receive your course documentation and log-in details in good time, thank you.


Here are just a few comments following recent similar courses:

“I wanted to let you how much I’ve enjoyed these lectures.  You and your guest lecturers have exceeded all expectations.  Your knowledge, technical skills and presentation all combine to keep me enthralled every Friday morning – Bravo!”

“Thank you for such a wonderful course. Every week’s lectures and visits have been a delight .. and have made Friday mornings the highlight of the week. I shall be signing up for the next and look forward enormously to more Friday mornings of bliss!”

“The format works really well and the lectures are excellent … it feels really special to be allowed to be in the galleries and churches live. This is the first we have done with Art History in Focus but it won’t be the last!”

“Thank you so much for another beautifully presented course with wonderful choices of music and your follow-up Monday email, with lots to inspire further… Travel and galleries and museums are difficult for me, so I very much appreciate particularly the live visits.”

“I absolutely love your courses Sian! I am learning so much about art, history and the world .. but above all it is your unique style that is so enchanting and keeps me coming back for more! As an expert in your subject you have great knowledge but also the gift of making your lectures accessible to a wide range of participants through your wonderful use of language and lovely sense of fun. Thank you!”

“ I wanted to thank you very much for such a great educational course. I attended classes through the recording as I am an Australian resident and found this such a game changer for me. It gave me the possibility to participate in class even though broadcast from London. You and your expert lecturers imparted such a wealth of knowledge and I loved the virtual tours.”

“Your course is splendid – the combination of lectures and virtual walks/visits works brilliantly.”

“It is marvellous to be able to enjoy, and marvel at, the pleasures of art, the galleries, the whizzing round Europe, from my armchair! Thank you again for your wonderful lectures, your knowledge, and your lovely, lively lecture delivery.”

“Your absolutely brilliant lectures have been a real highlight of this year. I cannot thank you or praise them enough”.

“Your recent course was another triumph. Not only do I have unique access to buildings and works of art which I could not otherwise see, but also fascinating lectures from such an erudite cast of guides”


Art History in Focus is proud to have initiated the concept of online tours in many major European museums and historic sites. We are delighted to have developed these collaborations which continue to raise important funds for the galleries and cultural sites as well as those working in the cultural sector.

Further Information


1. BOOK.

Click on the gold “Book This Course/Event” button on the right hand side now, fill in the online booking form and pay online. You will be notified automatically by email once your booking has been accepted.

Please ensure you enter your email address correctly, as your Zoom link will be sent to this address, thank you.

The participation fee is £155 per person, if making bookings for a number of people please provide their email addresses when booking them as separate participants. The fee includes “virtual visit” fees to sites visited as well as donations to cultural institutions in need of support.


Download ZOOM once you have booked – please print/download the instructions in this downloadable link and read them carefully. Zoom works best when using Google Chrome.


You will receive an email approximately 24-48 hours in advance of the event asking you to register.** This is a privacy function enabling only registered participants to attend. After registering you will automatically receive the Zoom log in link – please keep this safe

** Please note that these details are sent out in office hours, so if you book on a weekend you may not receive them until Monday. You must register with the same name that you have booked under, otherwise you may not be able to watch. If you have not received your email confirmations, please check your ‘deleted items’ and ‘junk mail’ folders or click here for advice.


Join the event at least ten minutes before it is scheduled to start, to ensure everything is working.

If you are not able to watch at the time it is live-streamed, you can still book online, as above. You do not need to advise us if you can’t participate live, don’t worry! You will be contacted after the event has been broadcast with instructions on how to watch on catch up (until Monday at midnight UK time). Please note, the recording is only available to those who have not been able to participate live and the viewing window cannot with regret be extended, for copyright purposes.

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event. We regret that we are unable to offer technical support with Zoom but tips can be found in the attachment. If you would like to book more than one event, please book separately for each lecture that you would like to attend, thank you. If you are booking for more than one person, it is important that you include their email address so that we can send them the lecture link too. We regret we are unable to offer refunds but don’t worry if you are not able to attend, as we will send you the recording link.

Lead image –  Conservators from the CBC (Conservazione Beni Culturali) with  Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco,2023. Photo copyright: CBC (Conservazione Beni Culturali), 2023
Text Images: Conservators from the CBC (Conservazione Beni Culturali) with  Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco,2023. Photo copyright: CBC (Conservazione Beni Culturali), 2023; Boucher, Venus and Cupid. Gaetano Filangieri Civic Museum, Naples; Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Henry Guildford. Royal Collection; La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Photo copyright: bvi4092; Hôtel d’Assézat and Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse. Photo copyright: Pom; The Becket Casket. V&A Museum, London; Benozzo Gozzoli, The Adoration of the Magi (detail). Medici Chapel, Florence. Photo copyright:  Jean Louis Mazieres; Matthias Grünewald. The Isenheim Altarpiece (detail). Musée Unterlinden, Colmar. Photo copyright: Jean Louis Mazieres