Master Collection activity 11: squaring up
Children investigate the sketch of the Madonna and Child adored by two saints.
They discuss what they can see in the picture and what it represents.
Pupils think about why the picture was painted, whether it’s a finished work of art, and why it’s covered with a grid of squares.
They investigate other examples of religious art created as altarpieces and sketch out their own masterpiece using a grid to help them.
Knowledge and understanding of how the content of large paintings are sometimes copied and enlarged from smaller preparatory drawings using grids.
Knowledge and understanding of religious paintings and altarpieces.
KS1-4 Art (investigating art, using a grid or frame to create a picture)
KS1-2 Maths (multiplication, scaling up using a grid)
KS1-4 Religious Studies (Christian devotional art and altarpieces)
Investigate the sketch of the Madonna and Child adored by two saints on the interactive whiteboard. Ask children some of the following questions:
- What can you see in the picture?
- How many children can you see? (8 including the baby Jesus. The other 7 are little putti or cherubs. One is well-defined bottom centre, and the other 6 as very faint wispy heads as part of the clouds)
- Do you recognise any of the characters? (Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, two saints, putti or cherubs)
- Who are the mother and child at the top? (Virgin Mary and baby Jesus)
- What are they resting on? (clouds)
- Where do you think the scene is taking place? (heaven)
- Why was the picture painted? (for religious devotion, so people could see a picture of Jesus and pray to him, the completed painting would be installed as an altarpiece in a church. An altarpiece was a religious picture resting on or mounted behind the altar of a Christian church)
- Is it a finished work of art? (No, it’s preparatory drawing)
- Why is it covered with a grid of squares? (to help the artist transcribe the design onto a larger canvas or panel).
Pupils then investigate other examples of religious art created as altarpieces using the links below.
- Altarpieces are located above altars in church naves or chapels, as for example in Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome:
- The painting of The Last Communion of Saint Francis, ascribed to Agostino Carracci (Dulwich Picture Gallery), has an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child above the altar. But the painting itself could also be an altarpiece of Saint Francis:
- Compare the Madonna and Child drawing with altarpieces such as The Virgin and Child appearing to a Group of Saints by Tiepolo (National Gallery, London)
- The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities by Murillo (National Gallery, London)
- The Buonvisi Altarpiece by Francesco Francia (National Gallery, London) in its original frame
- Ask pupils to draw a square and using the Madonna and Child drawing, or the Fortune Teller (see link below), copy what they can see in one of the squares.
- Using simple images, ask pupils to draw a grid over them and then draw a larger version of the grid and copy the original image square by square.
- Involve multiplication of the dimensions of squares.
- If each of the squares on the drawing equates to for example 10 x 10cm, what size will the finished painting be?