Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2)
Subjects: Visual Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 2–Part Lesson
2–3 class periods
Author: This lesson was adapted by J. Paul Getty Museum Education staff from a curriculum originally published on the Getty's first education website, ArtsEdNet.

For the Classroom

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Lesson Overview

Students explore a portrait of two historical princesses and consider the adornments they both wear. Each student compares these adornments to the decorative objects worn by a woman in his or her own life and sketches a portrait of that woman, focusing on the objects of adornment she wears.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• define and understand the meaning of the words adorn (verb) and adornment (noun).
• discuss a portrait and consider who the portrait depicts, what the sitter is wearing, and the artist's use of color and shape.
• compare and contrast objects of adornment worn by women in portraits with objects of adornment worn by women in their own lives (e.g. mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, guardian).
• draw a portrait of a woman from their own lives and the objects of adornment she wears.


• Reproduction of The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David
• Dry-erase board, blackboard, or chart paper
• Pencils
• Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
• Photographs of women from your students' lives or personal experience

Lesson Steps

1. Instruct students to close their eyes and imagine they are looking at a picture of a princess. Prompt them to visualize details by asking questions, but instruct students not to answer out loud. Ask them what their princess looks like, what she is wearing, etc.

2. Next, show students the painting The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David. Tell students that this is a painting of two princesses who lived a long time ago. Ask the following questions:
• What do you see that tells you this is a portrait of two princesses?
• Do these two princesses look the same or different from the one you imagined? How so? What do you see that is different from the princess in your imagination?

3. Ask students to look closely at the two princesses in the painting. Consider the following questions:
• What similarities or differences do you see between the two princesses in the painting? Chart responses.
• Consider how the two girls are similar. How well do you think these two princesses know one another? What do you see that makes you think this? Do you think they are related? What do you see that tells you this?

4. Give students the following background information about the painting:
• This type of painting is called a "portrait" because its subject is a person, in this case two people—two sisters, in fact. The title of the painting is called The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte. These two young women were princesses of Spain. Their father was the King of Spain and their uncle the Emperor of France.
• The sister sitting closer to us in the painting, wearing black, is Zénaïde. She was one year older than her sister, Charlotte, who is wearing the blue-gray dress. They are reading a letter from their father.

5. Use the following sentences to discuss new vocabulary. Write the sentences on the board or chart paper and underline the words adorned and adornments.
• The sisters have adorned themselves in very fancy, expensive clothing to show us that they are royal and wealthy. The crowns (or tiaras) they wear are also adornments that tell us they are princesses.
Read the sentences several times to allow students to consider what these two words might mean.

6. Write the following definitions on the board or chart paper.
• ADORN: to decorate (or dress up) someone or something with beautiful objects
• ADORNMENT: an object that adorns, or decorates (dresses up) someone or something

7. Continue discussing the painting using the following questions:
• What adornments do you see in the painting? Chart responses. Prompt students with questions about clothing, shawls, jewelry, etc., if necessary.
• If you could meet one of the sisters, which one would you most want to meet? Why?
• Which sister's dress do you like best? What do you like best about it?
• Which sister's tiara (or crown) do you like best? What do you like best about it?
• Do you know a woman who wears objects of adornment like these? If yes, ask students to describe the woman and the objects she wears. If no, ask students to think about what types of objects women they do know (e.g., teachers, mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts) adorn themselves with. Some prompting may be necessary here. (i.e., "Do women you know wear scarves, necklaces, fancy dresses, jewelry, rings, bracelets, etc.?") Have students share their responses with the class.

8. Ask students to get permission to bring to class a photograph of a woman they know that shows her wearing objects of adornment. This woman might be the woman they mentioned previously or someone else they know. You may wish to have on hand some spare photographs or magazine clippings of women for students who don't bring a photograph to class.

9. Begin the second part of the lesson with a short time for show-and-tell with the photographs students brought from home. Ask students to answer the following questions while sharing their photograph with their classmates:
• Who is the woman in your picture?
• What is your relationship to her?
• What objects of adornment does she have on? (Example: "I brought a picture of my aunt who is wearing a red dress, a gold necklace, and gold earrings.")

10. Next, have students put their photos away and revisit the portrait The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte. Ask students to recall the information they learned previously with the following questions.
• What do you call an artwork that has one or more people as the subject? Is it a portrait, landscape, or a still life?
• Who do you see depicted in this portrait?
• What do you see in the portrait that tells you it is a portrait of princesses?
• What other objects of adornment do you see in this painting?

11. Instruct students to carefully consider the sisters and the objects of adornment they are wearing—the fancy dresses, the crowns (or tiaras), and the shawl. Ask students to describe the colors and shapes they see in the painting. (Examples: The sisters' heads are round, or oval. Their noses are triangles. The scarf is made of wide stripes (rectangles) of red, yellow, blue, and white. The red stones in Zénaïde's crown are ovals, or circles.) Chart responses.

12. Have students revisit their photographs. Have them work in pairs to compare and contrast the colors and shapes they find in the photographs of their women with those in the painting.

13. Pass out art supplies and explain that students will be making their own portrait of the woman in the photograph they brought to class that includes her objects of adornment. Instruct students to pay close attention to the colors and shapes they see in their photographs, and which they identified with their partners.

Bonaparte Sisters / David
The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte, Jacques-Louis David, 1821


Students will be assessed primarily on their participation in class discussions and activities. Students will also be assessed on their use of color and shape in the observational drawing activity.


For a connection to California State English—language arts standards, have students write a paragraph about the woman in their photograph and her objects of adornment using descriptive words and sensory details.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades K–2

K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
K.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.
1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.
1.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with relative details expressing ideas and feelings more clearly.
2.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
2.4 Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audible in coherent sentences.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 1

Artistic Perception
1.3 Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, in the environment, and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture.

Creative Expression
2.4 Plan and use variations in line, shape/form, color, and texture to communicate ideas or feelings in works of art.
2.8 Create artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes.

Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Recognize and discuss the design of everyday objects from various time periods and cultures.
3.2 Identify and describe various subject matter in art (e.g., landscapes, seascapes, portraits, still life).

History—Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 1

1.4 Students compare and contrast everyday life in different times and places around the world and recognize that some aspects of people, places, and things change over time while others stay the same.

1.4.3 Recognize similarities and differences of earlier generations in such areas as work (inside and outside the home), dress, manners, stories, games, and festivals, drawing from biographies, oral histories, and folklore.

National Standards for Visual Arts Education

Grades K–4

Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

Using knowledge of Structures and Functions
Students know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas.
Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.
Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others
Students understand there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.
Students understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures