Grades/Level: Upper Elementary (3–5)
Subjects: Visual Arts
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
Three class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff


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Background on Asian Influences on European Art

Lesson Overview

Students will examine porcelain objects and see how their original use has been changed to create a new decorative object or an object with a new function. They will then take everyday utilitarian objects and re-create them into new objects that can be functional or entirely decorative.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• take diverse utilitarian materials and redesign them into an object that is aesthetic and/or functional.
• use the elements of design to bring unity to their redesigned object.
• understand the role of form and function in different cultures at different times.


• Paper plates, cups, bowls (these could be printed with patterns)
• Other materials such as wire, tinsel pipe cleaners, metallic pens
• Origami paper
• Scissors and glue
• Image of Mounted Lidded Bowl
• Images of other mounted porcelains in the Getty Museum's collection, seen below

Lesson Steps

1. Begin by examining the Japanese Imari-ware Mounted Lidded Bowl (about 1700) with the following questions.
• This piece was originally three different objects: a bowl, a shallow bowl, and a lid from a vase. From the three pieces and their original functions, what would you say the function of this object is now? Why do you say that?
• What is the function of the mounts in this piece? How do you know? (The mounts cover up changes, such as cuts, made to the original porcelain bowls. They also bring unity to the different porcelain pieces and beautify and protect the edges of the object. The shapes were also westernized with the inclusion of handles and bases. In the 1700s, dealers of luxury goods called marchands-merciers purchased porcelain from China or Japan directly at auction or from the Dutch East India Company and passed it to metalworkers to decorate. Often the porcelain was modified to take the mounts, sometimes creating completely new forms.)
• Look closely at the patterns on all three sections of this bowl. As you examine them, what do you notice? (The patterns on each of the three section of this bowl are different, although their colors match. The creators of these bowls never intended for them to be brought together as one piece. It was French metalworkers who combined them into this object.)

Take a look at the Pair of Ewers, and the Chinese porcelain Mounted Lidded Bowl.
• How are these objects like the Japanese Imari-ware Mounted Lidded Bowl? In what ways are they different? What is your evidence? (The Japanese Imari-ware Mounted Lidded Bowl has red, blue, green, and gold colors. The Chinese lidded bowl is celadon, a gray-green color. The Pair of Ewers have blue, red and white decoration.)
• What was the original function of the porcelain you see in these images? In what ways were they changed to re-create them as objects to be used in a French interior? (The mounts on the Pair of Ewers were added to Chinese vases, making them appear to be ewers or pitchers with a handle and a spout for pouring. On the Chinese Mounted Lidded Bowl, two bowls were set on top of each other to create a lidded bowl that actually serves a function; it is a potpourri container. Potpourri was important since it was not the custom to bathe regularly in 18th-century France.)
• How did the meaning of these objects change when they were re-created as decorative objects for an interior in France? Why do you say this?

2. Explain to the class that they are going to use scissors and glue to cut up and re-create utilitarian objects such as paper cups, bowls, plates, or even plastic cups of different shapes, and create new forms out of them, combining them and re-creating them so that they have a new look and new design. These objects will be re-created, as the French did with the Chinese and Japanese porcelains, into objects that are both well designed and functional.

3. Use the following questions to get students thinking about the object they will create and have them sketch their design first.
• How will you unite your design? (Using items such as pipe cleaners, gold or silver foil, and similar repeating patterns throughout the design.)
• Will you introduce an element, such as the silver or bronze mounts, that will bring unity to your object?
• How will patterns from different objects work together? Will you need to manipulate the patterns to enhance the design of the object? Will your objects have an Asian motif? (You could seek out paper products with Asian motifs, such as blue-and-white paper plate china patterns, or cover your objects with origami papers or Asian-patterned wrapping paper, or have students paint Asian patterns on white plates.)

4. For inspiration, have students look at the Getty's Website for other pieces of mounted porcelain in the Museum collection.

5. Once the designs are finished, have the students bring their pieces together for a class critique. Discuss how each used the same materials to come up with new and inventive designs. Do their creations recall the mounted porcelain pieces they looked at as a class? How have they used patterns and other elements to bring unity to their designs? Ask the students what changes they could make to their pieces to improve their designs.

Lidded Bowl / Unknown
Mounted Lidded Bowl, Japanese Imari-ware and French mounts, about 1700


Students will be assessed based on their ability to re-create their objects into something new, and their ability to add elements and work with patterns to bring unity to their new design.


• Look at a piece of modern porcelain and imagine that you have never seen anything like this before. What are the special properties of porcelain that made it so prized and so special in the 18th century? (Porcelain was prized for many reasons: its durability; its white color, which meant that other colors could be applied to its surface; its semi-translucence; and its ability to conduct heat.)

• Ask students: How do we use porcelain today? Is it still considered precious? What other objects in your homes can you think of that are made of porcelain?

• For younger students, examine the patterns found on china and use them as inspiration for making patterned designs on paper that emphasize repetition and movement.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 3–5

3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
4.3 Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker or media source provides to support particular points.
5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
5.3 Summarize the points a speaker or media source makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence, and identify and analyze any logical fallacies.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 3

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context
Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts
Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Role and Development of the Visual Arts
3.1 Compare and describe various works of art that have a similar theme and were created at different time periods.

Grade 5
4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
Responding to, Analyzing, and Making Judgments About Works in the Visual Arts
Students analyze, assess, and derive meaning from works of art, including their own, according to the elements of art, the principles of design, and aesthetic qualities.

Derive Meaning
4.1 Identify how selected principles of design are used in a work of art and how they affect personal responses to and evaluation of the work of art.
4.2 Compare the different purposes of a specific culture for creating art.

Make Informed Judgments
4.3 Develop and use specific criteria as individuals and in groups to assess works of art.
4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.