Lesson Plan. Playful Portraits

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1 Early Childhood (Ages 3 5) Lesson Plan Playful Portraits Molleno Altar Screen Altar Screen, Molleno, About 1825 Overview Students will explore Molleno s Altar Screen to learn more about portraits. They will then use this information to make self-portraits. Age Group Early childhood (ages 3 5) Length of Lesson One 35-minute lesson Rationale Having children at this age explore how they see themselves and what s important to them integrates a sense of self. This lesson provides the opportunity to do so in a way that is fun and accessible to young children. Objectives Students will be able to: Materials identify at least three colors in the Molleno Altar Screen; state that the images in the Molleno Altar Screen are portraits of people; trace around a person or object (older students); and use their imaginations as well as what s real to create a self-portrait. One 3 x 4 sheet of butcher paper for each child Assorted colored crayons Assortment of different magazines from which children can cut out pictures Scissors Included: About the Art sheet on the Molleno Altar Screen One color copy of the Altar Screen for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen Playful Portraits Molleno Altar Screen

2 Lesson 1. Warm-up: Have students look at pictures of people in magazines. Ask them what they see. When they say people, ask them how they know they are looking at pictures of people. Do they see eyes? Noses? Mouths? What else do they see in the pictures? (e.g. clothing, plants, etc.) 2. Display the image of Molleno s Altar Screen. Share that Molleno, the man who painted the Altar Screen, painted portraits of people called saints, who lived a long time ago. Have children look at the paintings and ask them how they know the paintings are of people. Encourage them to come up with things that they see in addition to parts of the face and body. Ask for volunteers to touch the noses in the Altar Screen. Have the children touch their own noses. Continue on with each part of the face and some other parts of the body (e.g. hands). 3. Tell the children that they are going to work with partners to make self-portraits. Have each child lay down on one of the sheets of butcher paper while the other child traces him. (If older, they can do their own tracing; the teacher and/or assistants will do the tracing of each child if they are too young.) Tell them to have fun with how they position their bodies. 4. Allow children time to add elements they observed in the magazine pictures and the Molleno Altar Screen portraits (parts of the face, clothing, etc.). They may also choose to add objects that they like or that reflect who they are (e.g. a favorite toy, sporting equipment). They can cut out some of these objects from the magazines. 5. Have a gallery exhibition where everyone walks around and sees each other s portrait and celebrates their hard work. Playful Portraits Molleno Altar Screen

3 About the Art Altar Screen Altar Screen, Molleno, About 1825 Who Made It? Molleno worked as an artist in the Chimayó area of northern New Mexico from approximately He is referred to as a santero an artist who creates santos, or holy images. A scholar, E. Boyd, discovered a painting of Saint Francis with an inscription on the reverse that reads San Francisco pitido [sic] el ano 1845 por el escultor Molleno. Saint Francis painted in the year 1845 by the sculptor Molleno. Based on this inscription, art historians are able to attribute other works with matching characteristics to Molleno. During his career, Molleno developed three different styles of painting, referred to as his early, middle, and late periods. He moved from creating somewhat realistic figures to more simplified, abstract figures. What Inspired It? Altar screens were generally placed behind the altar in a church, or on the side walls. The painted wooden panels within the frame, called retablos, depict images of Catholic saints, the Christ Child, and the Virgin Mary. The wooden frame on this screen was designed and created by former Denver Art Museum curator Robert Stroessner, in order to show how the panels would have been displayed in a Catholic church in New Mexico. Santos, the holy images portrayed in the individual panels, served as devotional figures that played an important role in church, community, and family rituals. Saints provided a way for individuals to communicate with God. They are identified by visual attributes, or symbols, that represent important aspects of their lives. Santos also served an educational purpose. The figures portrayed here would have been familiar to most of the church-going population in New Mexico during this time. Many of these people could not read, so images were used to tell stories, instead of the written word. Things to Look For Saint Joseph and the Christ Child The panel in the center of the top row shows Saint Joseph holding the Christ Child in his right arm, and holding a flowering staff in his left hand. Molleno s Altar Screen

4 Virgin Mary The Virgin Mary is located on the right side of the bottom row. She stands on a crescent moon one of the attributes associated with her. Saint Christopher Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, can be found in the bottom left panel. A child once asked Christopher to carry him across a river. As they made their way across, the child grew increasingly heavy and Christopher struggled. When they reached the other side, the child revealed himself as Christ, and told Christopher that he had just carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Christopher planted his staff by the edge of the river where it became a palm tree. He is recognized by the staff he carries in his right hand, and the Christ Child in his left. Saint Barbara Saint Barbara can be seen in the center panel with a tower in the background. The tower represents a story in which her jealous father locked her in a tower, claiming she was too beautiful to be seen. Eyes The eyes of the figures are simplified. A series of semi-circular lines make up the outline of each eye, and a dark dot is used to form the pupil. Lips A thin horizontal stripe of paint is crossed by short vertical lines to form the mouth. The lips, along with the eyes, are characteristic of Molleno s more abstracted style. Hands The hands of the figures are not realistic. The fingers are long, and the thumbs are distended and form awkward angles with the rest of the hand. Notice the disproportionate size of the hands on the image of the Christ Child. Molleno s Altar Screen

5 Chili Pepper Elements The tables and draperies are stylized and look like triangular chili peppers. An earlier name given to Molleno the Chili Painter refers to his tendency to create these chili pepper designs. Head The figures heads are turned slightly to the side, so that we are presented with a ¾ view of the face, with a portion of the right side hidden. This position is characteristic of Molleno s style. Nose and Beard Molleno often gave attention to the nose and beard of the figures. Notice here the dark outline around the figures noses, and the solid beards on the male figures. Empty Niche The empty frame on the bottom row would probably have held a sculpture of a saint, called a bulto. Bultos were also made by santeros. Molleno s Altar Screen

6 Altar Screen, Molleno, About 1825 Collection: Anne Evans Collection, Photograph All Rights Reserved.

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