Year 5 virtually visited the National Gallery this week…….. They took part in a live, interactive session with a National Gallery educator, exploring how Greek myths have been reimagined by artists throughout time.

First they explored Pierre Mignard’s “The Marquise de Seignelay and two of her sons” (1691) discussing why the marquise was represented as Thetis, Goddess of the Sea, and why her sons were represented as Achilles and Cupid.

Then they looked in close detail at a fresco, Pintoricchio’s “Penelope with the suitors” (1509). This fresco is rich in detail and it was  fun spotting the many clues in the painting that represent Odysseus’ adventures on his journey home to Penelope, as recounted in Homer’s Odyssey. The National Gallery educator was particularly impressed by Year 5’s knowledge of Odysseus’ encounters with the Sirens and the sorceress Circe.

Finally,  attention was turned to Luca Giordano’s “Perseus turning Phineas and his followers to stone” (1670).  The children were mesmerised by the writhing snakes on Medusa’s head, and wondered at the beautiful lapis lazuli used to paint Perseus’ striking garment. They  learnt how to pay attention to every inch of the painting for clues as to the larger story it is telling, and how we need to use all five of our senses when looking at a painting to bring it to life as the painter intended.

And the parting news that each one of us owns all the paintings in the National Gallery resulted in whoops of amazement and glee! A wonderful insight into paintings tell stories. We’ll never look at a painting in the same way again!

Feedback from pupils:

Rose: “It was very fun! I wish we could have had longer so we could have looked at more paintings.”

Emilia: “We could have spent all day looking at paintings!”

Tom: “It was cool looking at paintings from the past.”