antique door

Creating Narrative Artwork – Lesson Plan

Students will make “antique” panels for the classroom door. Assembled together, the door will represent interests and strengths of class members.

  • Length: 4 35-minute classes
  • Grades: 1-3


  • Students will recognize the Paneled Room as functional/narrative art.
  • Students will create narrative art unique to their own experiences.
  • Students will describe their work using art terminology.

Resource Used:
Paneled Room (West Door)
Found in: the Speed Art Museum gallery of the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM


details, emphasis, functional art, narrative art, overlap, pattern, repetition, symmetry

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Teacher's Guide to Stories of the Paneled Door

Creating Narrative Artwork

The West Door of the English Paneled Room in the Speed Art Museum is an extraordinary example of both functional and narrative art. It is a 400-year-old wooden door that is finely decorated with carvings (functional art), and it portrays six dramatic and fantastical stories by the Roman poet Ovid (narrative art). One of the stories carved into these panels is about Orpheus, the son of Apollo. Apollo, the god of music, gave Orpheus a stringed instrument called a lyre. Orpheus played this lyre so beautifully that he tamed all of nature, even the wildest of beasts, with his music.

Midas, Pan, and Apollo

One strange creature is Pan, a god of the fields who had the head and torso of a man and the legs of a goat. Pan challenged Apollo, the god of music, to a contest to see who could play the most beautiful music. All who heard judged the music Apollo played on his lyre to be the best. Only foolish King Midas preferred the piping of Pan. To punish King Midas’ bad ear for music, Apollo caused Midas to grow the big, hairy ears of a donkey.

  • Can you spot Apollo playing his lyre?
  • What kind of ears would you have put on Midas?

Diana and Acteon

Diana was goddess of the hunt, and Acteon was a very skillful hunter. Diana was furious when Acteon accidentally saw her bathing in the forest, and she punished him by magically changing him into a deer. It was at that moment that Acteon found out what it was like to no longer be the hunter but the hunted!

  • How does the artist show us that Acteon is becoming a deer?
  • Can you think of other ways to make a picture of a man turning into a deer?

Hercules and Cerebus

Hercules, who was famous for his superhuman strength and courage, was ordered to perform 12 tasks that would be impossible for most people. One of the most frightful was to capture Cerebus, the dog who guarded the underworld. Cerebus had three heads, each one snarling to reveal fangs that dripped with poison. If someone looked directly at Cerebus, he would be immediately turned to stone. Hercules, however, was able to capture Cerebus singlehandedly!

  • What would Cerebus look like if you were the artist who had carved this panel?
  • How would you have captured Cerebus singlehandedly?

Medea and King Pelias

The evil witch Medea hatched a plot to trick the daughters of Old King Pelias. She promised her magic could change him back into a young man. All they had to do, she whispered, was follow her direction. She showed them how it would work, taking an old ram and throwing it into a cauldron of magic herbs. Out jumped a young lamb. When the time came for King Pelias, however, there were only water and herbs boiling in the pot, and Medea had escaped in her chariot drawn by winged dragons.

  • Can you find Medea’s magic cauldron?
  • How can we tell who King Pelias is?

Pyramus and Thisbe

Ovid told a tale in his Metamorphoses about two young lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, who lived next door to each other in the ancient city of Babylonia. Their parents did not get along, so the only way Pyramus and Thisbe could talk to each other was through a crack in the wall that the two houses shared. They made plans to run away together and to meet beneath the white berries of the mulberry tree. Although their plans to run away together fell through, the berries of the mulberry tree turned red in memory of their love.

  • If this were a painting instead of a woodcarving, what colors do you think the artist might have used?
  • Can you find the mulberry tree within the picture?

Orpheus and His Lyre

The music Orpheus played on his lyre was so beautiful that everyone who heard it was charmed by it. Even the wild beasts lay down peacefully together. A lyre is a musical instrument played by the ancient Greeks. It is a stringed instrument, something like a small harp.

  • Can you find the lyre of Orpheus and draw its shape?
  • Can you find another lyre somewhere else in this door?
  • How has the music transformed the behavior of the animals?

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Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. A work of art that tells a story is called
    1. functional art.
    2. decorative art.
    3. narrative art.
    4. abstract art.

  2. A work of art that serves a purpose is called
    1. functional art.
    2. decorative art.
    3. narrative art.
    4. abstract art.

  3. A work of art where one part of the design mirrors the other part can be described as
    1. asymmetrical.
    2. symmetrical.
    3. abstract.
    4. symbolic.

  4. Emphasis is the principle of design that is concerned with the artwork’s
    1. symbolism.
    2. background details.
    3. setting.
    4. focal point.

Answer Key

  1. C
  2. A
  3. B
  4. D

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Instructional Strategies and Activities


View and discuss the English door and its panels. Information about the door can be found on the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM. Talk about the door as functional art. Look at the door panel details and ask students to describe what they see. Help them use art vocabulary by pointing out areas of emphasis in each panel, the use of pattern and repetition, and the symmetrical arrangement.

Select one of the panels and tell the story associated with the scene depicted there. If the students are interested and time allows, tell other stories associated with door panels. Then talk about the door as an example of narrative art.

Now tell students they will make panels for your classroom door. As you give instructions, emphasize art vocabulary.

Student Directions for Art Project (This may take 1-4 class periods, depending on how much time you wish to allow.)

  • Draw a half-inch border on all sides of the paper.
  • Draw an arch about 1-1/2″ in from the edges of the border.
  • Draw yourself doing something that you do really well within the arch.
  • Draw big, filling a good portion of the space. (This will make the student the focal point—emphasis—of each panel.)
  • Add surrounding people, animals, plants, etc. that are responding to your talent. (Tell students to be sure to overlap at least once within the drawing, and add lots and lots of details filling up the space, leaving no area with more than two fingers’ width of space.)
  • Decorate the arches with patterns of repeated lines and/or shapes. These patterns can relate to the subject matter of the drawing or can be purely decorative.
  • Go over all pencil lines with a black marker.
  • Color the panels with crayons. (They should color “waxy,” with short, close strokes, in order to get intense colors, leaving only the 1/2″ border uncolored. For white areas, use a white crayon.)
  • Wet the panel under running water. (Show them how to gently wad it up to “wring it out.” This will put cracks in the colored areas.)
  • Open up the panel and spread it out on a newspaper.
  • Brush brown tempera paint over the entire panel, then totally wipe off the paint with a damp rag. The brown paint will remain in the cracked areas and create an “antique patina.” Set drawing aside to dry.

Have each student write a description of his or her panel, using art vocabulary from the lesson.

Work Tip

By using a symmetrical pattern of two panels across and six panels down, you should be able to display the entire class’s panels on both the inside and outside of the door.

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event: Look at the door from the English Paneled Room at the Speed Museum. This door is a fine example of both functional and narrative art.

Directions: Make a panel for your classroom door telling a “story” about a special talent you have. Describe what your panel looks like, using the art vocabulary from this lesson.

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Performance Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
The student makes a panel that clearly describes his/her talent and its effect. All space is effectively used, with lots of details, the main figure as focal point, overlapping in at least one spot, no empty space greater than two fingers’ width, and a pleasing pattern in the arch. Craftsmanship is effective. Description includes consistently correct use of the art vocabulary. The student makes a panel that somewhat clearly describes his/her talent and its effect. Most of the space is well used, with lots of details, the main figure as the focal point, and a pleasing pattern in the arch. Craftsmanship is fairly effective. Description includes an overall correct use of the art vocabulary. The student makes a panel that basically describes his/her talent and its effect. Minimal attention has been paid to the space on the paper, with few details, the main figure as focal point, and minimal effort in designing the arch. Craftsmanship is adequate. Description includes a limited use of the art vocabulary. The student makes a panel that barely describes his/her talent and shows little or none of its effect. Little or no attention has been paid to organization of space on the paper. Craftsmanship is not evident. Description includes little or no knowledge of the art vocabulary. Blank, no answer, or irrelevant response.

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Support • Connections • Resources

See handout for stories of the Paneled Room (also included on the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM).

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K-12The Arts