Art of the Renaissance Era: Michelangelo

Art of the Renaissance Era: Michelangelo
By Michelle Stewart

Art History/Art Appreciation can be a subject that we skirt around in our homeschooling experience due to fear of our lack of ability, time or resources.  I have discovered through hours and hours of internet exploration that we have a powerful tool at our fingertips that will literally enable even the most “artistically-challenged” homeschooling mom or dad feel like a pro!

More teaching notes available at the end of this lesson and the bottom of this page.

Lesson Plan #1
Objective: In General, to explore art of the Renaissance Era through a virtual tour via the internet, and to foster curiosity and therefore encouraging students to examine the lives and the art of this incredibly prolific period. Specifically, to explore the early life, culture, politics and art of Michelangelo.

*Note:  Challenge questions are optional for more in depth study and are useful for discussion purposes.

Requirements:  Basic familiarity of the internet

Additional Resources Needed:  Dictionary

Assignment #1:  Go to the following website:

This is a great website!  It’s so thorough you won’t need to check out any books from the library.  Give yourself plenty of time to check out all the wonderful works of art by clicking on the highlighted items.  You might find the reading rather long, but remember this will keep you from making a trip to the library or purchasing expensive materials.

Explore Early Life 1475-1504

  1.  Early Days

Define PATRONAGE.  How did patronage impact Michelangelo’s life?

Challenge Question:  Do you think patronage is a good idea?  Why or Why not?

Define TACITURN.  Describe the events that might have caused Michelangelo to behave in this manner.

Challenge Question:  What do you think was the most difficult circumstance of his youth?  Give reasons for your answer.

Michelangelo studied painting and sculpture in his youth.  What did he study that was forbidden by The Church? (The Church here refers to the Roman Catholic Church)

Challenge Question:  Why do you think The Church took this stance?  Give reasons for your answers.

II.                Politics and Art

Who was Lorenzo the Magnificent?  What influence did he have on art and culture during his lifetime?

Who was Savonarola?  What influence did he have on art and culture during his lifetime?

Challenge question:  Can you think of any other rulers through out history that have come to power through fear, intimidation and a promise to “cleanse” the culture? Name common characteristics that allowed them to come to power.

III.             Works of Art

How old (approximately) was Michelangelo when he finished Pieta?  What is it made of?   The Pieta, meaning pity, is displayed where?  This work of art is unique in that it is his only work that he put what on?  How did he later feel about his actions?

As you scroll down, click on the image of David.  View this magnificent work of art and then return to the text.  Describe the symbolism that this sculpture held for Michelangelo.

List the ideals that Michelangelo wanted to convey to his countrymen.

Challenge Question:  How has art influenced your thinking?  The most obvious works might be political cartoons, but have you ever seen other works of art that caused you to feel happy, sad, angry, etc.?

Skim the rest of the text down to the bottom of the page and read about Michelangelo as a painter.  What does the word CARTOON mean in the context of this paragraph?

In the next lesson we will look at Michelangelo’s enormous endeavor, his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Enrichment exercise:  Draw a map of Italy and surrounding islands.  Label the major cities, Michelangelo’s birthplace, the capital and the surrounding bodies of water.  Color the map the colors of the Italian flag.

Teaching Notes

  1. My co-op class met once a week on Fridays and received their assignments which they were to bring completed to the next class. The students should plan at least three separate sessions on the internet to read through and look at the art, otherwise they will get overwhelmed and discouraged.  One parent was going to count this class towards her art requirement for highschool, so I tried to plan that the students spent 4-5 hours per week on assignments.  I think it turned out that the hours accumulated at the end of the year added up to 1/2 credit for the student in question.
  1. We spent about three months on the Renaissance (because I loved it).  If you wanted to make this a series it would probably be as follows:

*lesson on the middle years of Michelangelo’s life

*lesson on the later years of Michelangelo’s life

*new website to view and evaluate his work in sculpture and painting

*have students write a brief bio – obituary style – have them read from the newspaper so that they can get a feel for picking out important, significant and memorable info

*new website exploring the culture, world events, politics, medicine, etc. of Renaissance

Obviously, this is an overview and pretty open-ended approach.  It worked for me in the co-op because I could gauge when the students were ready to move on to something new.  When I felt that they were tiring of the Renaissance, we moved on to the Golden Age of Dutch painting which was just as wonderful and rich in its own right.

  1. The kids I worked with ranged in age from 4 grade to 8th grade.  That was a pretty wide range and the material was often too advanced for the little ones.  I usually let them listen and look at the art but didn’t hold them accountable for the work.  The 7th and 8th graders were able to do the work quite easily.

For more articles on Art and Art History Click Here
For more lessons in European History Grade 4 Click Here
For more lessons in European History Grade 5 Click Here