Grades/Level: Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: Short Activity
Aproximately 60 minutes
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Activity Overview

Students investigate different examples of the human form in ancient art, focusing on three main concepts: the canon of proportions, the contrapposto pose, and idealized vs. realistic representations.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• name three characteristics of what the Greeks and Romans perceived as ideal human forms and explain why these characteristics were valued.
• discuss how ancient ideals have influenced our notions of "perfect" bodies, both in the past and today.


• Download gallery activity sheets, below
• Works of art in the Getty Villa galleries—some are provided in pre-visit information below. You can also find more images in the Getty Museum's collections in the Explore Art section of this Web site.
• Map of the Museum at the Getty Villa

Activity Steps

1. Prior to your Villa visit, introduce your students to the different concepts outlined in the activity sheets by reviewing the works of art and the pre-visit activities noted with the activity descriptions below.

2. Print out the activity sheets and make copies for students to use while at the Villa.

3. You may elect to use these activities in two ways: Assign a different one to each of three different groups of students and have them report back to the class on their discoveries and conclusions; or assign 2–3 activities to all students, but have each group follow a rotating itinerary in order to avoid crowding in the Villa galleries.

4. Student groups will use the activity sheets as guides for looking closely at a variety of objects that allow them to explore ancient art concepts.

5. On their own, or in small groups, have students answer the questions on the gallery activity sheets. Discuss the ways in which artists depicted men, women, heroes, and athletes in different time periods and media.

6. Determine which of the three post-visit "Take It a Step Further" projects you would like your students to complete. These are described at the end of each in-gallery activity.

Activity Descriptions:

Beauty by Numbers (Galleries 209, 210, 211)

Pre-Visit: Use the following works of art to introduce the canon of proportions and the styles of the Archaic and Classical periods.
• Archaic: Statue of a Kouros
• Classical: Victorious Youth
• Classical: Statuette of Nude Youth Brandishing a Weapon

In-Gallery Activity: Students will investigate the concept of proportion and create a drawing based on the ancient Egyptian grid.

Striking a Pose (Galleries 106, 108, 109)
Pre-visit: Use the works of art below to introduce students to the contrapposto pose—one of the techniques used by ancient artists to present figures in a life-like fashion. Contrapposto was a way of representing the human body so that one leg seems to support the weight, while the other leg is bent or relaxed.
The Lansdowne Herakles

In-Gallery Activity: Students are challenged to find works of art that exemplify the contrapposto pose and to define its characteristics as they relate to the depiction of movement and naturalism in ancient art.

Ideal or Real?
Pre-Visit: Use the works of art below to introduce the concepts of idealized and realistic portraiture.
Roman Woman
Head of Julia Titi
Head of Emperor Augustus
Head of a Bearded Man

In-Gallery Activity: Students investigate the ways in which ancient people were portrayed as "real" or "ideal" based on established practices and fashion preferences among ancient Greeks and Romans.

Victorious Youth / Greek
Victorious Youth, Greek, 300–100 B.C.