Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
Four 50-minute class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Performing Arts in Art

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Glossary (RTF, 255KB)
Print and Web Resources (RTF, 247KB)
National and California State Standards (PDF, 827KB)

Lesson Overview

Students will learn about the Trojan War and the hero Achilles. They will compare different stories that were inspired by Achilles, which were passed down orally. They will analyze stories of Achilles in a relief on an ancient sarcophagus and in a drawing by a Renaissance artist. Finally, they will create their own drawing of Achilles inspired by literature.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• understand that stories about the Trojan War have been passed down orally and have influenced artists and writers from the Renaissance to today.
• analyze scenes from Homer's Iliad that are visually depicted in an ancient object and a Renaissance drawing.
• compare and contrast artistic interpretations of the story of Achilles.
• draw a scene from the myth of Achilles that communicates setting and narrative through characters' clothing and poses, and via details included in the background.


• Reproduction of Statuette of a Lyre Player and His Companion by an unknown Greek artist
• Reproduction of Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles by an unknown Roman artist
• Reproduction of Odysseus and the Daughters of Lycomedes by Baldassare Peruzzi
• Background Information and Questions for Teaching about the statuette, sarcophagus, and drawing
• Internet access
• Student Handout: "Homer, Oral Tradition, and the Trojan War"
• Student Handout: "Battle of Achilles and Hector from Homer's Iliad"
• Book: The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum (New York: Aladdin, 2004) (optional)
• DVD player
• DVD excerpt of a modern-day retelling of the battle of Hector and Achilles, such as scenes from Troy (dir. Wolfgang Petersen, 2004; rated R), Helen of Troy (dir. John Kent Harrison, 2003; unrated), or The Odyssey TV miniseries (dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, 1997; unrated) (Note: Please consult your school district's policy on watching excerpts of any films.)
• Drawing pencils and paper
Art Activity: "Create a Quick Gesture Sketch" (PDF, 254KB, 1 p.)
• Watercolor paper
• Pens
• Small paint brushes and brown ink (you may wish to substitute coffee)

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).

Sarcophagus / unknown Roman
Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles, an unknown Roman artist, A.D. 180–220