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

For the Classroom

Curriculum Home
Lesson Plans
Image Bank
Background on French Decorative Arts

Lesson Overview

Students will study a French cabinet and research and discuss its symbols. Students will then create their own marquetry design based on an animal symbol from another country.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• discuss and analyze the symbolism of the door panel on the Cabinet on Stand.
• research the animal symbols on the cabinet, as well as animal symbols from other countries, and find out why they were chosen.
• create their own marquetry designs using construction paper instead of wood veneers.


• Images, including details, of Cabinet on Stand, attributed to André-Charles Boulle. A poster representing a detail from the front of this cabinet is available at the Getty bookstore online.
• Colored construction paper
• White drawing paper
• Drawing pencils
• Scissors
• Glue

Lesson Steps

1. Click on the thumbnail of the image above for information and "Questions for Teaching" about the Cabinet on Stand.

2. Discuss with students why we choose animals as symbols of countries. Then have students research what countries the symbols on the Cabinet on Stand represent.
• What were the reasons they chose these animals?
• What does their symbolism mean?

3. Discuss with students the process of creating designs in wood marquetry. Refer to information on André-Charles Boulle and marquetry found in the Image Bank (click on the thumbnail of the image above).

4. Assign each student a different country and have him or her research what animal is its symbol and what it represents. For example, the cockerel (or rooster) came to be the national symbol of France because France was once known as Gaul—which is similar to gallus, the Latin word for "cockerel."

5. Once students have researched their animal symbols, explain that they are going to create a marquetry design using paper instead of wood. Their design will be based on the animal symbol of their assigned country.

6. Have the students begin by drawing out their design. As they draw out their design, remind them that everything they create will have to be cut out as a shape and pieced back together like a puzzle. Also, as they create their designs, have them add in other details. Since Boulle included a lot of floral marquetry on his cabinet, students could research flowers that grow in their assigned country, or find out the country's national flower or other emblems that represent that country, to include as details in their work.

7. As students create their marquetry design, remind them to use different colored papers in their designs, just as they would have used colored woods to create original marquetry panel designs.

8. Once the students have cut out all of their pieces, have them glue the pieces to another sheet of paper. This sheet will serve as the background of their marquetry design.

9. In real wood marquetry, details, such as shadows, would have been made through a process using hot sand. Have students use colored pencils to add shading and a few details to their design.

10. Once everyone has finished, have a class critique of the marquetry designs. Have the students discuss their choices in depicting their animals and explain why they chose the other elements to decorate their design.


Students will be assessed based on their completion of the project and their participation and explanation of their design in the critique.


This activity could be enhanced to look more like real wood marquetry. Try using colored papers with wood grain or creating your own wood grain using a faux finishing tool and paint.

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.
4.3 Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker or media source provides to support particular points.
4.6 Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation. (See grade 4 Language standards 1 and 3 for specific expectations.)
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.
5.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation. (See grade 5 Language standards 1 and 3 for specific expectations.)

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grade 5

2.0 Creative Expression
Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Visual Arts
Communication and Expression through Original Works of Art
2.5 Assemble a found object sculpture (as assemblage) or a mixed-media two-dimensional composition that reflects unity and harmony and communicates a theme.

5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications
Connecting and Applying What Is Learned in the Visual Arts to Other Art Forms and Subject Areas and to Careers
Visual Literacy
5.2 Identify and design icons, logos, and other graphic devices as symbols for ideas and information.