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Renaissance Portrait Drawing

Subject: : Fine Arts, Art History, Social Studies, Language Arts

Grade Level: 7-9

Materials: Computers with Internet access, white drawing paper, assorted color charcoal paper, ebony and white highlight drawing pencils, erasers, hand-held mirrors, and reproductions of Renaissance art

About: Students become familiar with the historical and social context of the Renaissance as well as the style of Renaissance art. They recognize and explore works of art by famous Renaissance artists: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. The students explore the art of portraiture through readings, the Internet, and museum visits, and each student creates a self-portrait pencil drawing from direct observation using a mirror or a photograph of him/herself.

The students will draw a realistic human head using proper spacing, proportion, and placement of features; create a Renaissance-style self-portrait; express roundness of forms using tonal values to create a sense of realism in their portraits; and capture a likeness of themselves from direct observation and the proper use of an art medium.

They learn that the Mona Lisa is a realistic portrait created with Renaissance techniques of “sfumato” and “perspective”. By direct observation and concentration, with a mirror or photograph, they create their own “likeness” in their self-portrait, and also learn that a realistic three-dimensional portrait image can be achieved with the use of modeling and shadow.

The students create a realistic Renaissance self-portrait drawing by direct observation.

The students recognize how Renaissance portraiture conveys a sense of realism as they capture their own likeness in a self-portrait pencil drawing. Using observation and personal point of view, as well as the elements and principles of design, they create a self-portrait drawing using the shading techniques developed by Renaissance artists.

Students have the opportunity to visit museums throughout the world online and explore galleries and further investigate the lives and works of Renaissance artists. This project incorporates collaboration with our school librarian and a “Power Media Plus” presentation. Through a database of streaming video, students receive a multi-sensory approach to the artists’ works and lives, and through a “charting

Telling the students they are about to take a trip to visit some of the most famous museums and masterpieces around the world is an exciting motivational tool. As they explore websites, students have the opportunity to walk through the galleries and see the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, and the School of Athens.

Students will recognize how Renaissance portraiture conveys a sense of realism.
Students will be able to capture their own likeness in a self-portrait drawing by using direct observation and personal point of view.
Students will know how to apply the elements and principles of art.
Students will use shading techniques developed by Renaissance artists.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Students can enter the museum and explore a variety of galleries.
"Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman". A landmark international loan exhibition brings together nearly 120 works by one of the most renowned masters of all time—the very embodiment of the Renaissance ideal of the universal genius.
The Louvre Museum in France. In the early 15th century, La Gioconda represented a turning point in the history of portraiture. Leonardo da Vinci linked the monumentality of a figure before a landscape with a virtuoso rendering of flesh tones. Discover the secret behind the smile...
Take a virtual visit to the Mona Lisa gallery in the Louvre.
Vatican Museums Online. This site offers a virtual visit of the Sistine Chapel.
Vatican Museums. School of Athens: The most famous philosophers of ancient times move within an imposing Renaissance architecture.

Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts

Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.

Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources

Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.

Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art

Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.

Understanding the Cultural Contributions of the Arts

Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.


Day 1: RENAISSANCE: A Rebirth of Art and Culture in Italy
Why is the Renaissance important and how does it relate to the development of Western culture?
Who were three most influential artists of that time?
Art notebooks
pens & pencils
Librarian Visit: Power Media Plus presentation
The students will create a KWL chart.
Students will view paintings of Italian Renaissance painters and sculptors as they virtually visit museums and galleries.
Class discussion and review.
Conduct Internet research on artists discussed in class and write a brief summary of what you’ve learned from your exploration and today’s classwork.
Written homework assignments and class discussions

Day 2: The Drawings Of Leonardo Da Vinci: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Students will explore the drawings found in da Vinci’s sketchpad and discuss the variety of interests and discoveries he was associated with.
Students will create a sketch in da Vinci’s style.
Student guide from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to coincide with their Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman exhibit from 2003.
sketchpads & pencils
Students will read student guide, observe sketches, and answer questions in their notebooks.
Review answers to questions and discussion of sketches.
Students will choose a sketch they admire and, by careful observation, create a similar sketch in their sketchpads, noting the use of line, shape, and form.
Class discussion, review of sketches

Day 3: Mona Lisa: A True Renaissance Portrait
Students will view and discuss da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as an inspiration for their own portraits.
Students will recognize how Renaissance portraiture conveys a sense of realism.
Students will observe the Renaissance painting techniques of “sfumato” and “chiaroscuro”.
Reproduction, poster of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
Art notebook, pen
While viewing poster of Mona Lisa:

1. Describe what you see in this painting.

2. How does da Vinci create a sense of realism in his portrait?

3. Does her facial expression appear as smiling or sad?

4. Why do you think the artist chose this subject to paint?

5. What effect does the background have on the subject?

6. How do we know Mona Lisa is priceless?

Sketch Mona Lisa
Bring in a portrait photo of yourself or a small hand mirror.


sfumato – smokey

chiraroscuro – light and dark shadows

Class discussion

Day 4: Portrait Drawing: Self-portraits
Students will explore the art of portraiture as an important genre during the Renaissance.
Students will demonstrate their understanding of portraiture as they follow teacher demonstration.
Using a student model, students will draw a realistic portrait with respect to scale, proportion and modeling.
Students will recognize how Renaissance portraiture conveys a sense of realism, as they capture their own likeness in a self-portrait drawing.
Using observation and personal point of view, as well as the elements and principles of design, students will create a self-portrait drawing using the shading techniques developed by Renaissance artists.
ebony pencils
During a teacher demonstration on blackboard, the students will follow along to learn the proper way to draw portrait features in correct proportion.
Shading techniques and blending will be demonstrated.
Students will observe magazine portrait photos and develop their drawing skills and observational drawing skills.
Completed portrait sketches.

Day 5: Self-Portraits
Students will create a self-portrait drawing, using Renaissance drawing techniques to capture their own “likeness” by direct observation
Students will embark on a journey of self-exploration as they represent themselves in a pencil self-portrait.
charcoal paper
ebony pencils
Using guidelines as experienced in prior lesson, students will observe and capture the relationship between their individual features.
Draw the outline of the face shape.
Draw in the guidelines for the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Draw the eyes, nose, and mouth
Add the ears, hairline, neck and shoulders.
Determine the light source, and add proper tonal values of shading.
Add final details to capture who you are.
Display on the blackboard for final evaluation and critique.
Submit a creative writing piece to describe “What makes you ‘you’?” How has that been expressed in your self-portrait?
Final Evaluation:

1. Which portraits capture the likeness of the artist? How can you tell?

2. How are our self-portraits similar to those of Renaissance painters?

3. Which students achieved a sense of realism in their portraits? How did they accomplish this?

4. Which self- portraits do you feel were the most successful? Why?

5. After viewing these portraits, what might you have done differently with yours to improve upon it?

6. How has the work of Leonardo da Vinci inspired your own artwork? Explain.

Class discussion and evaluation of lesson by students and teacher.


Lori Langsner


Myra S. Barnes School I.S. 24
225 Cleveland Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10308

Lori Langsner continues to excel in the TeachNet professional development program. She is one of the founding members of the group and has published twelve curriculum units on teachersnetwork.org, many of which have been adapted for classroom use by teachers around the world. Lori's work was again recognized in November 2005 at TeachNet’s annual awards ceremony where she addressed an audience of 75 education professionals and showed examples of her students’ work. For the past three years, Lori has been not only a classroom practitioner, but a facilitator of a learning community of other visual arts teachers around best practices in unit and lesson planning and the Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Visual Arts.


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