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Lesson Plan: The Story in Art

A painted and gilded Italian city scene of a procession of men on horseback arriving at the house of Queen Esther, who is hosting an elaborate dinner party with very fancily dressed guests

Marco del Buono Giamberti (Italian, Florentine, 1402–1489) and Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso (Italian, Florentine, 1415/17–1465)
The Story of Esther
Tempera and gold on wood; 17 1/2 x 55 3/8 in. (44.5 x 140.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1918 (18.117.2)

Collection Areas: European Art, Italian Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts
Grades: Elementary School
Topic/Theme: Stories in Art


Students will be able to:
  • use observation and interpretation skills to analyze narrative elements in a painting; and
  • visually convey a story through the use of characters, pose, and setting.

National Learning Standards

English Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.K-12.2 Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
NA-VA.K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

*Art as text

Questions for Viewing

  • What do you notice about the figures in the scene (clothing, attributes, pose, etc.)?
  • In what activities are they engaged?
  • Find one figure that is repeated. What similarities and differences do you notice in the representations? Why do you think the artist chose to include some figures multiple times?
  • Take a moment to explore the setting. What do you see? Does it remind you of a specific place?
  • If this painting were a story, how would you describe the beginning, middle, and end? What details support your ideas?


Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Two sheets of paper (different colors), scissors, and glue sticks
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts
Duration: 120 minutes

Strike three poses and take note of the overall shape of your body. Cut out one shape reflecting each pose. Imagine these shapes are characters and make up a story about them that has a beginning, middle, and end. Recreate a scene from the story by pasting your characters onto another sheet of paper and add a background using crayons, pencils, or markers. Last, write your story or create speech bubbles for the characters in your scene.


Arkenberg, Rebecca, Rika Burnham, Deborah Krohn, Kent Lydecker, Bosilijka Raditsa, and Teresa Russo. The Art of Renaissance Europe: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Download the resource.

Febbraro, Flavio, and Burkhard Schwetje. How to Read World History in Art. New York: Abrams, 2010.

"Marco del Buono Giamberti and Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso: The Story of Esther (18.117.2)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (November 2008)

Pre-Visit Guide for Teachers: European Paintings (15th–18th Century) (PDF)

Sider, Sandra. Handbook to Life in Renaissance Europe. New York: Facts on File, 2005.

Object in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Silver Plate with David and Goliath
Byzantine, made in Constantinople
Silver; Diam. 19 7/16 x 2 5/8 in. (49.4 x 6.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.396)

Author: Adapted from The Art of Renaissance Europe: A Resource for Educators
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Date: 2000

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