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St. Michael, Prince of the Celestial Armies

Work of Art: St. Michael, the Archangel

Subject Area: Art

Time Frame:  Classes (45 minute periods each)

Lesson Objectives:

The students will be able to:

  • describe this work of art as reflecting the beliefs of Mexicans in the viceregal period.
  • explain the origins of the process in indigenous cultures of Mexico, and how the sculpture as a whole represents European and indigenous traditions.
  • describe the process and materials used in the creation of this work of art.
  • create their own sculptures in a lightweight material that shows themselves in an active pose.

Relevant TEKS:

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

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

4. Response/evaluation: a. and b


  • light wire
  • wood block
  • papier-mâché paste
  • newspaper
  • paint
  • brushes


  1. Introducing the Work of Art

St. Michael appears brandishing his sword to fight the evil angels. He wears military garb with a braided diadem around his head.


This sculpture would have been used as an object of reverence in the rites of the Catholic Church. Being made of very strong light material it could have been carried in religious parades.

Technique or Process

The material used in sculpting this piece was a pulp made from cornstalks mixed with certain natural plant adhesives. Some parts of this sculpture are also fashioned from colorin wood which is also porous and lightweight. The finished piece was then painted to provide the features for St. Michael and the details of his armor.

Cultural Roots - See map

While the religion of Catholicism was an import from Spain, the art process used in creating this object for the church was an art well known in Mexico before the Spaniards arrived. Both the corn stalks used to form the sculpture and the wood used in its structure are native to Mexico.

  1. Link to image on exhibition web site - St. Michael, the Archangel
  • While viewing a large image of this sculpture, the students will describe the subject matter and discuss that subject in its historical context.
    1. What do you think Saint Michael is about to do?
    2. Why is he raising his sword?
    3. Who might he be leading?
    4. Notice the military garb he is wearing.  What element of his grab is not traditional worn by soldiers?
  • Students will describe the elements of art: color, line, shape, value and texture and the principles of art such as repetition, and balance in this work of art and explain how the use of these elements and principles contribute to the expressive effect of this piece.

    1. What sections of the sculpture contain the most detailed decorative elements?

    2. What steps go into creating a sculpture?

  • Students will note the material used in creating this work of art and discuss similar materials and how they are used today.

    1. What materials might you use to create this statue?  What do you think the artist used in this piece?
    2. How were the natives able to produce statues that were very light in spite of their large size?

Art Activity:

  • Students will sketch themselves in an active pose from their own life...running, jumping, playing tennis, etc. and the type of outfit they wear when engaged in that activity.

  • Students will build an armature of wire 10-12 inches tall (light- weight clothes hanger wire will work for this) and attach it with nails to a base of wood until firm.

  • The students will cover the armature with strips of newspaper to complete the form to represent themselves in a physical activity. When the work is completely formed and dried they will paint in their features and their clothing with tempera paint and spray over the completed work with lacquer or shellac to preserve it.

  • The finished pieces should be displayed in the room with a photo of St James.

Evaluation Procedure:

  • Students will discuss their work of art and how they met the lesson objectives. Students could also write a comparison of their work of art with the sculpture of St Michael in terms of elements and principles of art and expressive quality.

  • Each piece of sculpture should be strong enough to stand by itself on its wooden base, show the physical characteristics of the student who created the piece, represent that student in a recognizable physical activity, and be painted to show detail and complete the work to be attractive as a work of art. See assessment matrix.

Extension Activity Ideas:

Math: Compute the size of this sculpture in feet and inches. Draw an outline of it in scale and compare members of the class to it in size.
Language Arts: Write a comparison and contrast essay comparing the clothing worn by St. Michael to contemporary soldier's uniforms.
Social Studies: Research the history of soldier's uniforms through the ages.
Science: Study and compare the composition of different glues and adhesive substances used today to determine if corn or other natural products are still used as forming and adhesive substances.

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