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Museum Home Education Search Lesson Plans All Curricula Working with Sculpture Lesson Plans Sculpting a Message: From the Counter-Reformation to the Present Day
Sculpting a Message: From the Counter-Reformation to the Present Day

Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
5 to 6 class periods plus independent work
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

For the Classroom
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About Sculpture in Western Art
4 Basic Sculpture Techniques
Glossary (RTF-147KB)

Lesson Overview

Students will learn how images have been used to persuade people in the past and present about a specific message or idea. They will research the 17th-century European Counter-Reformation and discuss how a sculpture of a saint might have been used as a persuasive image in a Catholic convent or monastery. Working in teams, students will then create sculptures commissioned by "patrons" and write press releases to promote their creations.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• describe and analyze techniques artists use to communicate persuasive messages through two-dimensional and three-dimensional images.
• understand key themes and artistic styles of the Counter-Reformation period in 17th-century Europe.
• create a sculpture that conveys a message conceived by a patron


• Three examples of contemporary persuasive images that may resonate with your students, such as advertisements, political posters, or photojournalism (e.g., iPod ads, political posters for a presidential campaign, or news photos of soldiers in Iraq)
• Assorted magazines and newspapers (about one for every two students)
• Student Handout: Media Messages
• Image of St. Ginés de la Jara by Luisa Roldán
• Background Information: Online presentation for the exhibition La Roldana's Saint Ginés: The Making of a Polychrome Sculpture
• Background Information: The Counter-Reformation
• Resources from your school library or on the Internet about European history during the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation
• Student Handout: How to Write a Press Release
• Various supplies for creating sculptures, such as assorted recycled materials, clay, paint and paintbrushes, wire, or colored foam. Additional supplies to be provided by students as needed.
• Color copies of Background Information for the following paintings (at least one copy per group of four students):
    •The Entombment by Peter Paul Rubens
    •Christ Child by Anton Maria Maragliano
    •Christ Cleansing the Temple by Bernardino Mei
    •The Penitent Magdalene by Titian

Lesson Steps

Part I
1. Begin by showing students one modern-day image that was created to persuade viewers to believe in a specific message, idea, or platform. In a discussion, ask students to articulate what message is communicated in the image, and identify the strategies the artist used to convey the message visually.

Use the following questions as a guide for a discussion:
• How does the image make you feel? Point out visual details that convey this feeling.
• Where have you seen this image (i.e., magazines, newspapers, the Internet)?
• What can the location(s) or placement of the image tell us about who the message is targeted at? Explain that the audience for a persuasive image often determines where the image will be displayed. For example, an image for businessmen is more likely to be placed in the The Wall Street Journal newspaper than in a commercial on the Cartoon Network.
• Based on the details in the image, what else can you infer about the intended audience? What kind of people do you think would be most persuaded by the image's message? For example, does it appeal to a young audience, people who are wealthy, or people who enjoy a particular hobby or sport?
• What strategies are used to appeal to this audience? For example, does the artist appeal to a viewer's emotions? Is humor used? Are celebrity endorsements used? Does the image appeal to the target audience's basic needs or desires?

As students identify the persuasive strategies used by the artist or advertiser, list them on the board. Ask students what they think is the primary persuasive message of the image.

2. Have students repeat Step 1 with different persuasive images if necessary.

3. Divide students into groups of four or five and distribute two or three different magazines and newspapers to each group. Tell each group to find an advertisement, news photograph, or illustration to analyze that has a specific persuasive message. You could also direct your students to browse the Internet or think about television commercials they have seen that function in the same way.

Groups should work together to determine the intended audience for their image, describe the message their image communicates, and analyze how the message is conveyed in the image. Instruct each student to complete the Media Messages worksheet.

4. Invite groups to share what they discussed about the images they found. Add any new persuasive strategies to the list on the board.

5. Lead a discussion about the images by asking the following questions:
• Did any of the images succeed in persuading you of their message? Were any images more successful than the others? Why, or why not? Do you think the messages conveyed were the intended messages?
• Does every image convey a persuasive message?
• What can these images communicate that words alone cannot?

Part II
1. Tell students they will analyze an object created 300 years ago to persuade people about a message from the Catholic Church. Display the image of the sculpture St. Ginés de la Jara and allow your students to observe the work of art for a few minutes. You may also wish to zoom in on details of the sculpture.

2. Engage students in a discussion about the sculpture. Encourage them to observe its details and to use visual evidence to back up their ideas. You may also wish to guide the students' discussion using the information about the sculpture in the Image Bank, found in the materials section above.
• What are your first impressions of the sculpture? What details do you notice?
• What do you notice about the person depicted here? What clues do you see that make you say so?
• What do you notice about his clothing? What shapes and patterns do you see? Does that give you any ideas about what the man's place in society might be? Is he a politician? Is he a religious man?
• What can you tell me about the man represented by this sculpture? Based on his gesture and expression, what do you think he is doing?
• How do you think he feels? If this man could talk, what do you think he would say?
• How does the sculpture make you feel?

3. Share the title of the sculpture with students—St. Ginés de la Jara—and explain that scholars presume that the object was made for a monastery, church, or chapel. Prompt students to analyze the sculpture, and think about how it could have been used as a persuasive image. Use the following questions as a guide:
• When placed in a monastery or church, who do you think were the intended viewers for the sculpture?
• What purposes do works of art in churches serve today? What purposes do you think works of art served in churches 300 years ago? (For example, art can inspire devotion. Art can also have a decorative function or be an educational tool to inform the illiterate.)
• Protestant reformers like Martin Luther believed that the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, and he criticized the materialistic use of art in churches. What criticisms do you think Martin Luther might have of St. Ginés de la Jara?

4. Tell students that the sculpture was created by an artist named Luisa Roldán in about 1692, soon after a time in Europe called the Counter-Reformation. Explain to students that knowing the historical context of a work of art can help viewers more fully understand the object. Remind students about the contemporary examples they examined in Part I of this lesson. They can analyze those modern-day images because they are immersed in the culture in which the images were created and are aware of current events, trends, and personalities that informed the artists who created those images.

5. Explain the legend of St. Ginés de la Jara using the background information provided in the Image Bank. For more information about St. Ginés de La Jara, view the online presentation for the exhibition La Roldana's Saint Ginés: The Making of a Polychrome Sculpture. Next, give students an overview of the Counter-Reformation. You may wish to read the background information sheet, The Counter-Reformation, on your own to review the basic facts about this period in European history.

6. Have students conduct research about the European Counter-Reformation so they can better understand the sculpture of St. Ginés. Divide the class into groups, and have each group conduct their research online, or by using textbooks or books in their school library. Assign each group a topic relevant to the Counter-Reformation, such as:
• The Protestant Reformation
• Martin Luther's 95 Theses
• Iconoclasm
• The Council of Trent
• Baroque art
• The Society of Jesus (also known as the Jesuits)
• Grace through faith vs. grace through faith and good works
• Transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation

7. After students have researched these topics, have each group share findings with the class.

8. Highlight some of the overarching themes of the Counter-Reformation that were shared by students. Point out that the Counter-Reformation has been interpreted as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church had two main goals: to inspire people to remain faithful to the Catholic Church, and to convince those who had converted to Protestantism to return to the Catholic Church. Since many people were illiterate at that time, the best way for the Church to spread its messages was through visual images. Artists were called upon to create works of art that glorified the Church and could renew religious devotion. For example, lifelike sculptures like St. Ginés de la Jara were created, in part, to make God seem more immediately accessible to the people. Such efforts were a reaction to Protestant criticism that the Catholic Church positions itself as an intermediary between God and the people.

9. Return to the image of St. Ginés de la Jara and discuss the ways that the sculpture could have functioned as a persuasive object during the Counter-Reformation. Use the following questions as a guide:
• Now that you know a bit more about the context of the sculpture, who do you think was the targeted audience for this sculpture?
• How do you think the sculpture could have reinforced or renewed religious devotion? What persuasive strategies did the artist use? Remind students to refer to the list of strategies on the board, created in Part I of the lesson.
• Do you think the sculpture would have successfully persuaded people to remain loyal to the Catholic Church? Why, or why not?

Explain that the sculpture was meant to reinforce the emotional experience of the faithful and transport the viewer into a higher state of being. Viewers would have known the legend of St. Ginés, and may have been emotionally and spiritually affected by the story. The artist created a life-size, lifelike statue of a saint, expressing the saint's humanity and allowing the story of St. Ginés to be more accessible and real to believers. In addition, the impressive craftsmanship and gold brocade would have evoked a sense of awe in viewers.

10. Provide additional information about art made during the Counter-Reformation. Explain that many works of art created in Western Europe during this time period are described as Baroque. The Baroque style was characterized by its direct, dramatic, and realistic representations that appealed to viewers' emotions and sense of awe. Artists working in this style were influenced by the Catholic Church's belief that art should be easily accessible to the masses.

11. Split the class into groups of four or five. Assign each group another work of art created during the Counter-Reformation. Provide reproductions of the works and related background information from the Image Bank, or the materials section above.
The Entombment by Peter Paul Rubens
Christ Child by Anton Maria Maragliano
Christ Cleansing the Temple by Bernardino Mei
The Penitent Magdalene by Titian

Have each group discuss how their image relates to the Counter-Reformation, and identify which persuasive strategies the artist used. Invite each group to share their findings with the class.

12. Ask students to compare and contrast the sculptures and paintings. Discuss how a three-dimensional form could help to communicate a message in ways that cannot be achieved in two dimensions. (For example, most sculptures can be placed on any flat surface so they may be more easily accessed or viewed. Also, sculptures can be more lifelike and viewers may be better able to relate to them.)

Part III
1. Explain to students that many works of art that are created to persuade the viewer about a message are commissioned (requested and funded) by an individual or a group for a specific purpose. Luisa Roldán made St. Ginés de la Jara when she was working for Charles II, king of Spain. Scholars speculate that the sculpture was commissioned by Charles II as a gift for one of his royal convents or monasteries. The person or group who commissions a work of art is called a patron. Tell students that art has been commissioned by patrons for a variety of purposes throughout history. What are some reasons why works of art are commissioned? (Commissioned works of art could commemorate a person, decorate a public space, sell a product, or endorse a politician.)

2. Explain that collaboration between the artist and patron is often necessary when artists create works of art on commission. This collaboration ensures that the finished work of art expresses the patron's message or vision.

3. Tell students that they will work in groups or four, as patrons and artists who commission and create works of art. Two individuals from each group will be patrons, and two will be artists. Instruct the patrons to choose a nonprofit organization that they would like to represent (e.g. animal rights advocacy group, environmental group, library, or cultural institution.) For younger grades, it may be helpful to assign them an organization. The two patrons will come up with an idea for a sculpture that their nonprofit or institution would like to commission and write a request for a proposal addressing the following questions:
• What message do you want to convey with the work of art?
• What are some ways to communicate that message?
• What are some ideas for the final work of art? (Encourage patrons to think creatively because the materials available will be limited. Unlike many wealthy patrons, most nonprofit organizations must stick to a tight budget.)
• What audience do you want to reach with your message by commissioning this work of art?
• Keeping your audience in mind, name some locations where the sculpture should be displayed.

4. Have each pair of patrons give the artists in their group a copy of their request for a proposal. Artists should read over the requests, and make a list of questions for the patrons, and then meet with the patrons to clarify those questions. Each pair of artists will then work together to write a proposal for a sculpture based on the patrons' request. The proposal should address the following questions:
• Based on the patrons' ideas, what do you propose for the final sculpture?
• What medium/s and format will you use?
• What do you expect the final work of art to look like? How do you plan to achieve that? Describe your ideas for the final work of art in as much detail as possible and include at least two sketches of your proposed sculpture from two different perspectives.

5. Have the patrons review the proposals and make adjustments as they see fit. You may also wish to review the proposals to ensure that you or your students will be able to obtain the necessary art supplies.

6. Allow students to use any materials they can provide on their own, such as cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, beads, found objects, and construction paper. You may wish to provide additional supplies requested by students, such as assorted recycled materials, clay, paint and paintbrushes, wire, or colored foam. As the artists work, each pair of patrons will draft a press release for the unveiling of their commissioned sculpture, using the handout How to Write a Press Release for guidance. It may be helpful to show students examples of press releases, such as those available in the Getty Trust's Press Room.

7. Arrange a 15-minute meeting between artists and patrons after the artists have worked on their pieces for a couple of days, but before they have finished. Artists and patrons should discuss the progress of the works of art using the following questions:
• How has the work of art changed from the original concept? What surprises or difficulties have arisen during the process of creating the work of art?
• Does the piece still communicate the desired message? If not, what adjustments need to be made?
• What has been surprising or challenging about creating a three-dimensional work of art?

8. When the final works of art and press releases are complete, students can present their work in a class presentation or exhibition.

St. Gines de la Jara / Roldan
St. Ginés de la Jara, Luisa Roldán, about 1692

Standards Addressed

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 6
Creative Expression
2.5 Select specific media and processes to express moods, feelings, themes or ideas.

Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Research and discuss the role of the visual arts in selected periods of history, using a variety of resources (both print and electronic).

Aesthetic Valuing
4.4 Change, edit, or revise their works of art after a critique, articulating reasons for their changes.

Connections, Relationships, Applications
5.4 Describe tactics employed in advertising to sway the viewer's thinking and provide examples.

Grade 7
Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Research and describe how art reflects cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.

Grade 8
Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Examine and describe or report on the role of a work of art created to make a social comment or protest social conditions.

Grade 9–12 (Proficient)
Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Identify similarities and differences in the purposes of art created in selected cultures.

Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art.

Grade 9–12 (Advanced)
Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Describe the relationship involving the art maker (artist), the making (process), the artwork (product) and the viewer.

History—Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 7
7.9 Students analyze the historical developments of the Reformation

English—Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 6
Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
2.1 Identify the structural features of popular media (e.g., newspapers, magazines, online information) and use the features to obtain information.

Grade 7
Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
2.1 Understand and analyze the differences in structure and purpose between various categories of informational materials (e.g., textbooks, newspapers, instructional manuals, signs).

National Standards List of Benchmarks for Language Arts

Level III: Grades 6–8
Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media
1. Knows characteristics of a wide range of media (e.g., television news favors messages that are immediate and visual, news photographs favor messages with an emotional component)
2. Understands the different purposes of various media (e.g., to provide entertainment or information, to persuade, to transmit culture, to focus attention on an issue)
6. Understands the ways in which image-makers carefully construct meaning (e.g., idea and word choice by authors, images created by photographers, television programs created by groups of people, photos or cutlines chosen in newspapers)

Level IV: Grades 9–12
Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media
1. Understands that media messages have economic, political, social, and aesthetic purposes (e.g., to make money, to gain power or authority over others, to present ideas about how people should think or behave, to experiment with different kinds of symbolic forms or ideas)
12. Understands the role of the media in addressing social and cultural issues (e.g., creating or promoting causes: U.N. military action, election of political parties; use of media to achieve governmental, societal, and cultural goals)

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