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Lesson Overview:

Though a series of pictures, readings and activities, the students will investigate many of the relationships that contribute to the look and design of decorative arts objects. The influence of local and distant cultures will be illustrated and discussed. Two sub-themes central to this will unfold. First, these influences can create "threads" of borrowed ideas that can span time or distance. Second, even when local craftsmen borrow ideas from other cultures, they are usually re-interpreted and re-invented with local esthetics woven into the new look of the objects. This lesson focuses on comparing the results of different social and cultural influences on the objects, and on comparing the same types of objects with each other. .

Learning Objectives:

After completing this unit, students will be able to:

  • Describe ways that cultures (communities) have individual and often unique art approaches.
  • Describe how the art of one culture may be influenced by the art of other cultures through historical knowledge or trade.
  • Identify ways that even "copied" art will change as it is made in the new culture.
  • Describe ways that different materials are used in different cultures because of availability or cost of importing
  • Identify the influences of other cultures' decorative styles on the decorative arts in the Grandeur of Viceregal Mexico.

Preparing To Teach This Unit:

This unit is designed to be a multidisciplinary unit for elementary age students in grades 1 through 4. It combines both art and art history activities with social studies knowledge and skills. The activities emphasize critical thinking and problem solving proficiency. Language arts activities using both reading and writing competencies are also included.

Time Frame For This Unit:

This unit consists of three sections, but it can be tailored to fit the school or class's schedule. The first section in particular, the Wardrobes, also contains sub-categories that can be addressed individually or with other unit information.


A sample rubric (link opens new browser window) is provided and may be used to evaluate students' work or as a model for designing your own rubric. Links to online rubric creation tools are also provided

Unit Sections:

The Franz Mayer Wardrobes (link opens new browser window)

The Franz Mayer Bench
(link opens new browser window)

The Bargueno (Writing Desk) ((link opens new browser window)

Student Activities (link opens new browser window)

Examples of web search strategies used with this unit:

For furniture, searches were made on the following types of words, and combinations of them. (For instance, searches on furniture, and antique furniture brought in some different hits, as did Mexican art and early Mexican art.) Searches were made on furniture, decorative arts, Greek art, Greek culture, Greek furniture, Archaeology, Islamic art, et cetera. Searches of web sites for dealers of antique arts were fruitful, but their contents will be changing periodically.

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