Grades/Level: High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts
Time Required: Long–Term Unit
Six to seven 50-minute class periods plus independent work
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Performing Arts in Art
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National and California State Standards (PDF, 827KB)

Lesson Overview

Students will analyze scenes from the Trojan War that are visually depicted in an ancient object and an 18th-century painting, especially the details depicted in the foreground, middle ground, and background. They will research an epic poem inspired by the Trojan War and write a literary response analyzing how themes and values in the poem reflect the historical context in which they were made. Finally, they will work in teams to reframe a tale from the Trojan War in a contemporary context—both visually and in poetry—and recite the tale in a poetry slam.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• understand that stories about the Trojan War were originally passed down orally and resulted in different variations in literary texts.
• analyze scenes from the Trojan War that are visually depicted in an ancient object and an 18th-century painting.
• write a literary response analyzing how themes and values in literary texts reflect the historical context in which they were made.
• work in teams to reframe and recite a tale from the Trojan War in a contemporary context.

Materials

• Reproduction of Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles by an unknown Roman artist
• Reproduction of The Sacrifice of Polyxena by Giovanni Battista Pittoni
• Background Information and Questions for Teaching about the sarcophagus and painting
• Internet access
• Homer's Iliad
• Student Handout: "Homer, Oral Tradition, and the Trojan War"
• DVD player
• DVD excerpt of a modern-day retelling of the life of Achilles, such as scenes from Troy (dir. Wolfgang Petersen, 2004; rated R) or Helen of Troy (dir. John Kent Harrison, 2003; unrated) (Note: Please consult your school district's policy on watching excerpts of any films.)
• CD player (optional)
• Book and audio CD: The Spoken Word Revolution, edited by Mark Eleveld (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2003) (optional)

Lesson Steps

Download the complete lesson by clicking on the "Download this lesson" icon above.

Glossary Terms:
Words in bold on these pages and in the lesson are defined in the glossary for this curriculum (see "Performing Arts in Art Contents" links above).

Sacrifice of Polyxena / Pittoni
The Sacrifice of Polyxena, Giovanni Battista Pittoni, about 1733–1734