1. Tell students that they are going to look at a type of portrait called a bust. Explain that a bust is a portrait sculpture representing a person's head, neck, and shoulders, and perhaps the upper chest and upper arms. Explain that the posture and facial expressions of a person portrayed in a bust are important when describing the character or emotions of the individual. While students are sitting at their desks, instruct them to use only their facial expressions, necks, shoulders, and torsos to show what a sad person might look like. Remind them that they cannot say any words, make any sounds, or use their hands or any part of their bodies below the waist. What would a happy person look like? While the class shows with their faces what a happy person looks like, instruct one student at a time to look at their classmates and describe what he or she sees. What would an angry person look like? What would a strong person look like? What would a confident person look like?
2. Display a reproduction of the 18th-century sculpture Bust of a Man by Francis Harwood. Have students take the time to look closely at the work of art. Then ask them to describe what they see. Tell them to discuss with a partner all the details they notice about the work. Prompt students with the following questions:
How do you think the man feels? What do you see that makes you say so?
Look closely at the tilt of the man's head. Next look at his shoulders and chest. Now mimic the pose. When someone is posed in this way, how do you think the person feels?
What other details do you notice about this man?
The bust is displayed on a yellow base or pedestal called a socle. What does it mean to "put someone on a pedestal"?
3. Tell students that the sculpture was made about 250 years ago by Francis Harwood, an English artist who was working in Florence, Italy. Discuss the fact that the identity of the man depicted by Harwood is a mystery, but that it is possible that he might be a freed slave or an athlete who worked for an English duke. For information about the life of a freed slave who lived at the same time when the Harwood sculpture was made,
see "Olaudah Equiano" on the PBS Web site Africans in America.
4. Point out that Harwood was going against standard representations of Africans in European art at this time by depicting this individual as confident and strong. Discuss the fact that Africans in Europe and the Americas were not treated fairly and did not have the same opportunities as white Europeans and Americans. For instance, many Africans were slaves. Starting about 600 years ago, Europeans kidnapped Africans and traded them as property for guns, gold, and other goods, and transported them by boat to Europe and the Spanish Caribbean. American plantation owners saw how profitable it was for Spanish farmers in the Caribbean to keep Africans as slaves, so they tried to force Native Americans to tend to their crops. Most Native Americans, however, were dying from diseases brought to the colonies by Europeans, including smallpox and tuberculosis. Therefore, European ships brought about 12 million Africans to plantations in the Americas to be used as slaves.
5. You may wish to show students paintings, engravings, and drawings of African slaves that were more typical of the time period, such as the following images:
William Hogarth's painting Marriage A-la-Mode: 4. The Toilette on the National Gallery, London's Web site
Nicolas de Largillierre's painting Princess Rákóczi on the National Gallery, London's Web site
Slave with Iron Muzzle from the PBS Web site Africans in America
A View of Calabar from the PBS Web site Africans in America
Living Africans Thrown Overboard from the PBS Web site Africans in America
6. Pass out self-hardening clay, toothpicks, toothbrushes, straws, forks, and pencils. Brainstorm a short list of people who are normally not "put on a pedestal." Tell students to create their own strong and confident portrait bust of someone from a story they have read who has faced difficult situations. Instruct students to include the head and shoulders of this individual and place the portrait on a socle of their choice. For step-by-step instructions on how to create a portrait bust, see the lesson plan "Friendship Portraits" from the Getty Museum's Working with Sculpture curriculum.
7. Have students write a paragraph or discuss with a partner why they chose to put a specific person on a pedestal.
Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards for California State Public Schools
2.0 Creative Expression
2.5 Create an imaginative clay sculpture based on an organic form.
3.0 Historical and Cultural Context
3.1 Compare and describe various works of art that have a similar theme and were created at different time periods.
2.0 Creative Expression
2.3 Use additive and subtractive processes in making simple sculptural forms.
2.0 Creative Expression
2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.
History—Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools
5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.
6. Describe the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South.