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People, Props, and Places - Who Do you Want to Be?



In this activity, the students will be creating a digital self-portrait using the current technology in the schools. They will discuss how the portrait is rendered, how the portrait allows us to see into a time period that we are not a part of,  and how what she is wearing has meaning.

Work of Art: Portrait of an Indian Lady, Daughter of a Cacique

Subject Area: Art

Time Frame: Two to Three Classes (45 minute periods each)

Lesson Objectives:

The students will be able to:

  • describe portraits and self-portraits, as well as the meanings of details.
  • create their own portrait with meaning.
  • experiment with different images of his /herself wearing different clothing in different settings.

Relevant TEKS:

Knowledge and skills. Complete TEKS for 6th grade art.

1. Perception: a.
2. Creative expression/performance: a and c.
3. Historical cultural heritage: b.

Materials: (This activity requires the use of computers.)

  • solid color wall
  • digital camera
  • graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop
  • scanner or Internet connection


1. Introducing the Work of Art

This young woman, sixteen year old Sebastiana Ynes Josepha de San Augustin, was the daughter of a governor and came from a noble family of Indian descent. Her elaborate jewelry and the pearls on her native American blouse show the wealth of her family and highlight her social status.  This portrait was painted shortly before she entered a convent and took vows to become a nun.


Wealthy parents usually commissioned such paintings. They wished to have a painting of their daughter before she entered the convent.

Technique or Process

The painting is very skillfully rendered in oil on canvas

Cultural roots

Many parents had their young daughters' portraits painted before the young women took their vows. Some girls are depicted wearing their habits, jewels and crowns. Other paintings portray them dressed in the fashion of the times.

2. Look at the work of art

Link to image on exhibition web site - Portrait of an Indian Lady

  • The students will view the Indian Lady portrait on the computer (use the computer lab, LCD projector, printed copy on a transparency, class set of printed color photo, etc ).
  • Discuss how it is rendered, how it allows us to see into a time period that we are not a part of, how what she is wearing has meaning.
    • What is the purpose of getting your portrait made? What are some of the differences between the viceregal period and now?
    • What steps go into painting a portrait? Oil verses watercolor?
    • What medium do you think this artist used?
    • Look at what the sitter is wearing and holding in her hands. What do you notice about the sitter's clothing? the accessories she is wearing? Can you decipher what she is holding in her hand? Where is she sitting? Based on what you have noticed, what social class does she belong?
    • Based on what you have noticed, what does this tell you about eighteenth century life in New Spain?

Art Activity

  • Create a Digital Self-portrait
  • The students will compare their work of art with the Portrait of an Indian Lady from the exhibition.
    1. How has technology changed the way we make portraits?
    2. What choices does the artist have to make when creating a portrait?
    3. What choices did you make?
    4. How do they compare to the choices of the artist from the portrait?

Evaluation Procedure for the Digital Self-portrait:

Each self-portrait should be a combination of at least 2 images. The work should reflect that student in some way. The image should not use copyright material.

See assessment matrix.

Extension Activities:

Social studies: Students can research the history of fashion.

Link to home page of The Granduer of Vice Regal Mexico

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