Portrait of a Ruler
Lesson plan based on Hadrian
Create a fulllength portrait of the Emperor Hadrian that conveys his role through attributes.
Skills and Focus: Art History, Hands-on
Subject Area: Fine Arts
Thematic Connection: Signs and Symbols
Grade Level: Middle School
Time Needed: 60 minutes
Identify and define an attribute in a portrait.
Determine which attributes in a full-length portrait might identify Hadrian as an ancient Roman emperor.
Paint or draw a portrait of Hadrian that depicts these attributes.
Understand how this bust of Hadrian conveys a story about life as an emperor in ancient Rome.
Instructional Materials Needed
Story: Portraits of Roman Emperors
Tempera paints or colored pencils
Brushes and small containers of water for rinsing brushes
Step 1: Artists of ancient Rome were admired in their own time and still are today for the realism of their portraiture. Elements that tell us about the subject of a portrait are called attributes. This sculpture is recognizable as Hadrian because he was known to have worn ringlets and a beard in the style of the Greek philosophers. Because his body is missing, we must imagine the other attributes that signify his role as a powerful emperor. Discuss as a class what these attributes might be.
Step 2: For each student (or team of students), print out a reproduction of the Art Institute's portrait head of Hadrian. Cut out the head around the edges and attach it with glue or tape to one of the short sides of a large rectangular sheet of white paper. Have students draw or paint the emperor's body in full length on the large paper, showing it in proper proportion to the cut-out of the head pasted onto the sheet. Working in either tempera paint or with colored pencils, students should complete full-length portraits, which should include a number of appropriate attributes. When students have completed their portraits, ask them to discuss the attributes they included and why.
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 26: Through creating and performing, understand how works of art are produced.
This activity meets Illinois State Goal 27: Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present.
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