Italian Renaissance Elementary Lesson Plans
Written by Tabitha F. Miller
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Concepts Taught
Leonardo da Vinci



Mona Lisa in the Millennium



Ceiling Painting



St. George and the Dragon



Renaissance Links

Concepts: The three main concepts students should understand about the art of the Renaissance are:

* First, it is important to understand that the cultural renewal that emerged during the Renaissance, marked a distinctive turning point within the history of Western civilization. While art hardly died in the Middle Ages, what was reborn was lifelike art.

* It is also important to recognize that the rediscovery of the Greek and Roman tradition helped artists reproduce visual images accurately. Helped by scientific advancements, such as an understandinf of anatomy and perspective, painters of the Renaissance went beyond Greece and Rome in technical expertise.

* Lastly, because of the effect of important events and advances in technology the Renaissance marks the entry of civilization into "modern times", the period in which we live today.

Italy is often called the birthplace of the Renaissance. One very important reason for this is Italy's geographic location. It is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, closer to the Middle East and Southwest Asia than any other European country.


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Leonardo da Vinci



Mona Lisa in the Millennium





Objective: To create a portrait of the "Mona Lisa" as she would look in Modern times. 2. To observe the Mona Lisa closely to describe, analyze, and interpret meanings in the work;

Vocabulary: Renaissance, portrait, sfumato

Materials: A print of the Mona Lisa and other Renaissance portraits, 12" x 18" construction paper, paint or colored pencils

Procedure: Discuss Leonardo DaVinci as a great artist and a man of many talents. See my Renaissance Links for background information on Leonardo. Show a print of the Mona Lisa and discuss characteristics that make it a masterpiece. It is painted in soft colors and everything appears to be seen through a slight haze. This technique is called sfumato and is caused by the blurring of outlines. Compare and contrast the differences in time periods which might have affected the Mona Lisa, for example Leonardo could not play a CD to keep her entertained , he hired musicians to play for her. Brainstorm a list of ideas that students could use to make her look as if she lived today. Some examples of my student's ideas have been... a NY city background and a cellular phone, a Disneyland background and Mickey ears, A Toys R Us background and a virtual pet or Beanie Baby in her hand. Have students use paint or colored pencils to create a Mona Lisa that lives in the new Millennium. Remind students to keep her recognizable. 

Evaluation: participates in discussion, good craftsmanship, use of sfumato, creates a modern background, proper use of materials


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Ceiling Painting




Objective: The student will examine the process of creating a ceiling painting in order to develop an empathy for the laborious nature of Michelangelo's work.

Vocabulary: Renaissance, fresco, figure painting

Materials: 12"x18"white construction paper, tempera paint

Procedure: Michelangelo was a gifted sculpture painter. He studied the art of the old masters in Florence and learned to paint frescoes, paintings on wet plaster. His most famous painting was a fresco on the 10,000 square foot ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He lay for hours at a time on a scaffold more than 50 feet in the air, with paint dripping into his eyes. It took him four years to complete this magnificent work of art. Discuss how Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. See my Renaissance links for background information on Michelangelo. Instruct the students to tape a sheet of paper to the underside of their desks. Lying on their backs and using watercolors, the students will create some sort of celestial scene. This can be real or imaginary. (birds, hot air balloons, UFO's airplanes, angels etc.) Before they start to paint, suggest that they lightly sketch their scene first. The paint will drip if students are not careful to blot their brush until it is only damp. Try to display these on the ceiling.

Evaluation: participates in discussion, good craftsmanship, creates a celestial scene, proper use of materials


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Raphael's "St. George fighting the Dragon"




Objective: Students will create a figure drawing that shows action.

Vocabulary: Renaissance, model, figure drawing, battle, motion

Materials: 12" x 18" drawing paper, charcoal pencils, child's knight costume, stuffed animal (preferably a dragon)

Procedure: Introduce the drawing lesson by showing the students a print of St. George and the Dragon. Discuss how many of Raphael's painting showed realistic looking people with plenty of motion and animation. Discuss how many of the subjects of Renaissance paintings were religious, portraits or showed historical battles. For background information on Raphael see my Renaissance links. Discuss the various concepts and art elements that this painting exemplifies especially the use of light and shadow. Have a volunteer who would like to be the model of a knight slaying a dragon wear a child's knight costume and pose in a similar way to the painting. Tell the students to sketch the drawing using figure drawing techniques. 

Evaluation: draws human like figure, shows motiongood craftsmanship, participates in discussion, proper use of materials


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Objective: To sculpt a figure.

Vocabulary: sculpture, Renaissance, marble,bronze, relief , wood, schiacciato

Materials: three 9"x12" sheets of aluminum foil, tape, white modeling clay, toothpicks, scissors

Procedure: Donatello was an Italian sculptor, a major innovator in RENAISSANCE art. His sculptures are known for their strong, humanistic expression. Donatello worked in marble, bronze, relief and wood. He developed a shallow relief technique (schiacciato) with which he achieved effects of spatial depth. For background information see my Renaissance Links. In this lesson, children can sculpt a human figure using an additive form of sculpting.

1. Roll each sheet of foil tightly. Twist two rolls together to form the body and legs. Add another roll to form the arms. Trim the rolls if needed.

2. Tape the rolls in place.

3. Cover the frame a bit at a time with piece of modeling clay. Use a toothpick to shape the figure and to add features such as eyes or the chin. Add extra amounts of clay in certain areas to suggest fullness such as in the folds of a garment.

4. With clay, make an oval or rectangular base about one eight inch thick. Place your figure on the base , If needed add more clay to support the figure.

Evaluation: creates human like figure, good craftsmanship, participates in discussion, proper use of materials


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 Renaissance Links



Web Museum-Italian Renaissance



Leonardo Homepage



Michelangelo on the WWW- a lot of Michelangelo sites to choose from



Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci



Raphael- a biography and pictures



Donatello- a biography and pictures



Play a Renaissance Trivia Game-created by David DiLillo



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