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Lesson Plans

Mona Lisa

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Sat, 13 Apr 1996 03:27:51 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Sat, 13 Apr 1996 03:22:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Where have you seen the Mona Lisa
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Dear Marcia:
My lesson on the Mona Lisa begins with a brief introduction to/discussion of
Leonardo da Vinci's life and work and the art of the Renaissance. (Actually,
this is more like a review of the art of the Renaissance, as the students
have at this point already studied the Renaissance and in fact have studied
basic art "movements" up to the nineteenth century.

I assign the project as a final project. Students are to research and write a
300-500 word paper on the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, focusing in
particular on the Mona Lisa and its' significance. In class we discuss the
significance of the Mona Lisa in terms of its' impact during Leonardo's own
time, and the impact the image has had throughout the ensuing years on art,
artists, etc. It is during this discussion that I introduce the many different
appropriations of the Mona Lisa. I begin with copies done by students in the
traditional manner (student copyign the work of the master), famous forgeries,
contemporary artist's interpretations (such as those by Duchamp and Warhol),
and the many images created by what I term the popular medi (graphics arts,
advertising media, etc).

After discussing the many uses and misuses of the image of the Mona Lisa,
I introduce the next component of the project. Students are to choose a
contemporary artist whose work interests them. Any artist after 1900 is
acceptable. They are to research said artist in the same way that they
researched the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci. They are then to
choose a specific work by that artist to discuss. In doing so, they are
to choose one that is considered the quintessential work by that artist,
and in their paper define why the work is most representative of the artist.

The paper about the second artist is to be approximately the same length as that about da Vinci. The last written portion of the paper is a comparison/
contrast of the chosen contemporary artist's life/style/work with that of
da Vinci. Once the written work is completetd, students are to create a
studio response to their research. In other words, they are to recreate
the Mona Lisa as they think the contemporary artist they chose might. They
are allowed to use any medium to do so. On the day that final exams would
normally be given, we have class presentations of papers and studio responses.

The project has been a great success. The students seem to enjoy doing it,
and it is really existed to see the studio responses. They are required to
research and document sources for the written portion of their work and
craftsmanship and originality are considered in evaluation of the studio
project. I initially got the idea from Linda Sattler, a high school teacher at
Bowsher High School in Toledo. I thought it might be fun to adapt for
my college level Foundations of Art course. The I saw the Getty Video and
liked the ideas presented there as well. So I further developed the
written portion of the project, adding the requirements of formal research
and documentation. In addition, I added the part where I require students
to evaluate why the Mona Lisa is considered to be 1) one of the greatest works
of the Renaissance and prehaps all time, 2) representative of da Vinci, perhaps
tive, or rather most representative of the artist they researched. Especially
in the second portion of this requirement, I require that students defend their

I think that the project is a nice synthesis of the things introduced, through-
out the course. Ultimately, I think it is also a better measure of what they
have learned in the course. I want them not just to know about art and
art history, but also to learn how to look at art, think about art and
talk about and make art. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they
evaluate the art they have seen and the art they have made in a class critique.
Many of my students have told me afterwards that they never thought about
art before the course, and after the course the way in which they thought
about and viewed art had changed dramatically. If that is the case, then
I have reached my goal.

Ruth Voyles
The University of Toledo
The Toledo Museum of Art

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  • Maybe reply: DebbieDBAE: "Re: Mona Lisa"
  • Reply: Teresa Tipton: "re:incorporating art in the classroom"