Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences Resource Set

Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences Resource Set

This resource set is meant to pair with Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences Lesson Concept. The resource set is intended to be used by the teacher to provide background information on the works of art while the lesson concept should be used by the students as a way to engage with the works of art.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Collection:
African Art, American Art, East Asian Art, European Art, Native American Art
Culture/Region:
Africa, America, East Asia, Japan
Subject Area:
African American, Fine Arts, History and Social Science
Activity Type:
Resource Set

Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences Resource Set

Image Gallery

General Nicolas Philippe Guye
Willem van Heythuysen
Portrait of Hotei
Marian Anderson
Saint Mary Magdalene Renouncing the Worldly Life
King's Beaded Robe
War Shirt
Talismanic Shirt

Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences

What do you see? What did the artist see? What do others see? How can exploring works of art promote equity and diversity in the classroom? Art often evokes conversations about inclusion, empathy—and what it means to be a global citizen. By examining works of art through multiple viewpoints based on individual, cultural, and/or societal contexts, discover strategies for uncovering many possible interpretations of each work. Use this resource to practice and discuss unique ways to help students understand the value of “walking in someone else’s shoes.” This resource set is meant to pair with the Valuing the Differences Lesson Concept. The resource set is intended to be used by teachers to provide background information on the works of art, while the suggested resources to the right of each object as well as the associated Lesson Concept are meant to provide ways to engage with the works and this topic.

General Nicolas Philippe Guye

General Nicolas Philippe Guye

1810 , Spanish

Medium: Oil on canvas

Accession ID: 71.26

Here, the Spanish artist Francisco Goya represents French General Nicholas Guye, who was the governor of the Spanish city of Seville when this portrait was painted. At this time, Spain was controll ...

Here, the Spanish artist Francisco Goya represents French General Nicholas Guye, who was the governor of the Spanish city of Seville when this portrait was painted. At this time, Spain was controlled by the French during the Peninsula War (1808-1814).

In October 1807, France and Spain signed a treaty to ally and invade Portugal. Both countries were interested in gaining control of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal itself, as well as overseas Portuguese territory. In addition, France, wanted to end Portugal's ongoing and lucrative trade with their enemy Britain.

In March 1808, Napoleon turned against his ally Spain and ordered French troops to advance on the Spanish city of Madrid, effectively occupying the country. Shortly after, Napoleon deposed the Spanish King and placed his brother Joseph on the throne. This move officially began the Peninsula War, also known as the War of Spanish Independence. On May 2, 1808, a popular uprising in the capital was crushed by the French. The event was immortalized in two paintings by Goya: The Second of May, 1808, and The Third of May, 1808. (Consider finding these images online to add to the conversation). The Peninsula War would continue until 1814 when combined British, Spanish, and Portuguese forces finally defeated France. Napoleon was sent into exile to the island of Elba.

The subject of this work, General Nicholas Guye, fought alongside Napoleon in many military campaigns and served as a loyal aid to King Joseph. The general wears the orders that show his successful career. He holds his bicorn, or two-cornered hat, with both hands, wears golden epaulettes, (ornamental shoulder pieces) that indicate his high rank and status as do his many medals. The red sash and cross of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Spain hang around his neck. The Royal Order of Spain was founded by King Joseph of Spain in 1808 and was awarded for bravery on the battlefield. When Guye left Spain he was named an Officer of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of merit established by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Guye was also one of Goya’s most supportive patrons and the artist has depicted him as a sympathetic human being, despite his role in invading Spain. Goya was likely sympathetic to the French for their efforts in liberating Spain from the Inquisition, which they abolished. Goya later went into exile in France, and died in the city of Bordeaux.

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Willem van Heythuysen

Willem van Heythuysen

2006 , American

Medium: oil and enamel on canvas

Accession ID: 2006.14

This piece was painted by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley.

Wiley’s career has focused on addressing and remedying the absence of black and brown men and women in our visual, historical ...

This piece was painted by contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley.

Wiley’s career has focused on addressing and remedying the absence of black and brown men and women in our visual, historical, and cultural narratives. His subjects range from individuals the artist encountered while traveling around the world to many of the most important and renowned African American figures of our generation, including President Barack Obama. Wiley’s work powerfully repositions black youth within the classical European tradition of power and status.

To find subjects for his paintings, Wiley often uses a process he calls “street casting.” In this process he stops people on the street and invites them to be in one of his paintings. Wiley has said that he looks for “people who possess a certain type of power in the streets.” Together, he and his subject choose a work of art from an art history book to be the inspiration for their painting. That person poses like the figure in the inspiration piece but chooses their own clothing to wear. While we don’t know the gentleman that is pictured in this painting, we do know that this is how he wanted to be represented.

The piece chosen as the inspiration for this painting was done by the Dutch artist, Frans Hals in 1625. Willem van Heythuysen is both the name of the wealthy, Dutch merchant whose image was captured by Hals as well as the name Wiley uses for the title of his painting. Wiley’s model is from Harlem, New York, while the Hals sitter is from Haarlem in the Netherlands. (Consider looking online for the Hals image for comparison).

In the Hals painting, van Heythuysen is shown wearing a black outfit, lace ruff or collar, and a sword. Wiley’s subject is clearly closer to our time and place, evidenced by his designer Sean John track-suit and Timberland boots. Wiley’s background is covered with lavish, golden floral designs that encircle his subject’s leg. With sword in hand, this anonymous, African American man gazes back at the viewer with pride as he steps into the long, exclusive tradition of European portraiture. Images like this, were for many years, synonymous with power and privilege and therefore did not include people of color. With paintings like this, Kehinde Wiley has set out to re-write art history.

“A big part of what I'm questioning in my work is what does it mean to be authentic, to be real, to be a genuine article or an absolute fake? What does it mean to be a real black man? Realness is a term applied so heavily to black men in our society.” --Kehinde Wiley

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Portrait of Hotei

Portrait of Hotei

ca. 1575 , Japanese

Medium: One of hanging scroll triptych; ink, light color on paper

Accession ID: 66.70.2

This scroll depicts Hotei, a 10th-century Chinese Zen Buddhist master known for his eccentric lifestyle. His name means “cloth sack” and refers to the bag he is usually shown carrying, that al ...

This scroll depicts Hotei, a 10th-century Chinese Zen Buddhist master known for his eccentric lifestyle. His name means “cloth sack” and refers to the bag he is usually shown carrying, that although holding only a few meager possessions, symbolizes prosperity, abundance, and contentment. He is often shown laughing and his nickname in Chinese is the "Laughing Buddha." He was said to have been extremely kind, generous, and adored by children and in one story he travels around giving candy to poor children.

The essential element of Zen Buddhism is "meditation" and Zen teaches that enlightenment is achieved through the realization that one is already an enlightened being. This awakening can happen gradually or in a flash of insight and is the result of one's own efforts. Deities and written scriptures can only offer limited assistance.

While Zen traces its origins to India, it was formalized in China (known as Chan) and was transmitted to Japan. It took greater hold here in the thirteenth century where it was received enthusiastically, particularly by the samurai class. Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Zen became the most prominent form of Buddhism.

Ink painting, as seen on this scroll, developed in the 14th century along with the rise of Zen Buddhism. Today, monochrome ink painting is the art form most closely associated with the school of Zen Buddhism. The schools emphasis on simplicity and the natural world influenced the “austere” style art that appealed to Zen monks and Shogun military leaders alike. Among the first Japanese artists to work with ink painting were Zen monks who painted in a quick and expressive manner to convey their religious views and personal convictions. Their preferred subjects were Zen leaders, teachers, and enlightened individuals.

These types of scenes were admired by monks and military officials who commissioned these screens to decorate palaces, temples, and residences of shoguns. Folding screens originated in China as protection from wind and the first screens used in Japan, during the seventh to the eighth century, came from China and Korea. Folding screens are ideal for traditional Japanese interior architecture, where there are few fixed walls. Compact when closed, folding screens can be conveniently moved and extended fully to provide the appropriate atmosphere for official business, ceremonies, or more intimate activities like reading, writing, or sleeping.

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Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson

1965 , American

Medium: Oil and egg tempera emulsion on canvas

Accession ID: 2012.277

Artist Beauford Delaney painted this portrait of the acclaimed American singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). It was his second painting to feature Anderson, an African American who is considered a c ...

Artist Beauford Delaney painted this portrait of the acclaimed American singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993). It was his second painting to feature Anderson, an African American who is considered a cultural hero by many. This portrait was painted in 1965, when the Civil Rights struggle was well underway in America.

Marian Anderson was an African American contralto singer who became an important symbol in the struggle to overcome racial prejudices, especially for African American artists such as Delaney. Her elevation to this role was brought about in part by a particular incident that took place in 1939.

Following a highly successful world tour in which she was hailed as one of the greatest performers of the era, she was scheduled to give a benefit performance for Howard University. It was standard practice for anyone with such an extraordinary international reputation to perform in Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR leadership refused to allow her to sing to an integrated audience in their venue. This refusal was a call to action to many people, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who soon thereafter resigned her membership in the DAR in protest. Through the efforts of numerous people, arrangements were made for the concert to take place in front of the Lincoln Memorial instead.

Constitution Hall would have held approximately 4,000 people. On Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, 75,000 people turned out to hear Anderson’s performance—and hundreds of thousands more heard her over the radio. She began the concert against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, with a rendition of My Country Tis of Thee. You can find a video of Anderson's performance on YouTube.

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Saint Mary Magdalene Renouncing the Worldly Life

Saint Mary Magdalene Renouncing the Worldly Life

early 1650s , Spanish

Medium: Oil on canvas

Accession ID: 53.21.2

Mary Magdalene was an important saint of the Counter Reformation, the Catholic reaction to Protestantism that reached its high-point in Europe during the 17th century. Protestantism, which official ...

Mary Magdalene was an important saint of the Counter Reformation, the Catholic reaction to Protestantism that reached its high-point in Europe during the 17th century. Protestantism, which officially began in 1517, developed out of frustration with what was seen as widespread corruption in the Catholic church. Protestantism discouraged lavish, large scale religious paintings and sculptures and in favor more plain, smaller works of personal devotion.

In reaction to this, and established by the Council of Trent (1545-63), Counter Reformation leaders set a clear set of rules regarding the representation of religious images. Works of art were expected to highlight the theological differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. The goal of art then was to help revitalize Catholicism across Europe, in an attempt to minimize the effects of the Protestant “revolt." While Catholic artists were expected to focus on certain aspects of Catholicism, the rules also stressed that religious images should be easily understood by believers and non-believers alike, with the goal of encouraging people to repent for their sins and reconvert to Catholicism.

Many saints and biblical figures were used as models of morality and meant to inspire conversion. Almost no figure was more represented in art during the Catholic Counter Reformation than Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was considered a model for conversion during this time because of the story of her leaving a life of sin in order to follow the teachings of Jesus. Magdalene is represented here as renouncing the worldly life and repenting her previous sins.

Murillo’s representation is consistent with Catholic doctrine, which upheld the Magdalene as a model of conversion and love. The emotion expressed by the figure is typical of Counter-Reformation artists who wished the messages of their works to be easily understood by a wide audience.

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King's Beaded Robe

King's Beaded Robe

early 20th century , Yoruba

Medium: glass beads, string, velvet, wool, damask

Accession ID: 96.36

This beaded King's Robe was once worn by a king of the Yoruba, a cultural group that live mainly in West Africa. The colorful beadwork of a king’s regalia symbolizes his role as unifier of the va ...

This beaded King's Robe was once worn by a king of the Yoruba, a cultural group that live mainly in West Africa. The colorful beadwork of a king’s regalia symbolizes his role as unifier of the various òrìsàs (deities) and cults followed by his people. Color selection in Yoruba beadwork reflects either the aesthetic preferences of the king or that of the beadworker. In this robe and other beaded regalia, the king becomes a symbol of the spiritual power, material wealth, and general well-being of his kingdom.

The face on the back of this beaded robe appears often in Yoruba beadwork and may represent either the orisa Oduduwa or the “inner face” of the king. In the Yoruba creation story, Oduduwa (along with other òrìsàs) created the world and humanity following orders from the supreme deity, Olodumare. Oduduwa was also the founder and first king of the Yoruba. Thus, faces like this one serve as reminders of earlier rulers, linking the reigning king with his royal ancestors. The wide, unblinking eyes are a reminder that the eyes of the king are watchful for all his people.

The Yoruba have created—and continue to produce—some of Africa’s most dazzling beaded objects, notably royal regalia such as crowns, necklaces, footwear, footstools, and even entire garments.

For a long time people have believed that glass beads were not produced in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead they thought beads were only imported from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Thanks to archaeological evidence we now know that more than a thousand years ago the manufacture of red, blue, and green glass beads was an important industry in Ife (sacred city in Yorubaland). However, this King’s Robe is made of imported glass beads. Beads have for a long time been important accessories of royal regalia and valuable trade commodities.

Colors not only play an artistic role in Yoruba art, but also have special meanings. For example, many colors relate to particular Yoruba gods. Indigo blue (elu), sacred to Yemoja, the mother of waters, is associated with water and coolness and is believed to calm and soothe tension. The color white (funfun)—sacred to Obatala and Orunmila—calls to mind peacefulness and the sublime. Red (pupa) signifies hotness, danger, and vitality, and often represents Sango, the thunderstorm deity. Black (dudu) embodies the unpredictable and therefore is associated with Esu, the divine messenger (also known as a mischievous trickster).

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War Shirt

War Shirt

1850–80 , Crow

Medium: Elk or antelope hide, porcupine quills, wool cloth, ermine, horsehair, glass beads, pigment

Accession ID: 2016.127

This shirt was once owned by a member of the Apsáalooke people which means “children of the large-beaked bird." White Europeans later misinterpreted the word as "crow." Today, the Apsáalooke a ...

This shirt was once owned by a member of the Apsáalooke people which means “children of the large-beaked bird." White Europeans later misinterpreted the word as "crow." Today, the Apsáalooke are a federally recognized tribe known as the Crow Tribe of Montana.

These shirts were considered a mark of great power and social status and the original owner of this shirt earned the right to wear it through acts of great bravery, either on the battlefield or the hunting grounds. These deeds are recounted in the decoration which contained sacred tribal patterns that were believed to be a gift of Spirits and contained spiritual power.

The act of making a war shirt was also considered a sacred activity. The shirts were mostly made out of tanned white-tailed deer, pronghorn, or bighorn sheep hides and anywhere from two to four hides were needed to complete one shirt. Both the beadwork and quillwork was done exclusively by women, often several of whom worked together to complete one shirt. In some tribes, special groups of skilled female embroiderers and quillworkers formed a collective, and were the only ones allowed to work on these sacred arts. This work was highly respected among the rest of the tribe.

The most prominent features of each war shirt were four embroidered strips, that appear on the shoulders and sleeves. These stripes were decorated with beadwork, quillwork or a combination of both and were made separately and then stitched onto the finished shirt. This highly detailed and elaborate embroidery was time consuming and making it typically took several months to complete these four strips.

The high quality and diversity of materials, aesthetics, and workmanship shown here is indicative of the Crow, who were known as the best of all Plains Indian artists. Because of the abundance of resources available to them, Crow artists were able to create clothing that was distinctive in the use of color and overall embellishment. This example is decorated with exquisite quillwork, as well as ermine pelts, horsehair, glass beads, and paint.

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Talismanic Shirt

Talismanic Shirt

ca. 1400–1550 , Indian

Medium: ink and opaque watercolor on cotton

Accession ID: 2000.9

Islam arrived in India via traders on the west coast in the seventh-century A.D. It wasn’t until the 12th century that it entered Northern India from the Muslim conquest of North India in the lat ...

Islam arrived in India via traders on the west coast in the seventh-century A.D. It wasn’t until the 12th century that it entered Northern India from the Muslim conquest of North India in the late 12th century. This conquest ensured the lasting presence of a dynamic new religion in India. At the very center of Islam is the Qur’an which presents the religion’s theological and moral bases. Since Muslims honor the Qur’an with great intensity, many Muslims commissioned lavish copies of the text over the centuries. More than any particular content, it is the holy book’s overall potency that is evoked by this fascinating object, a talismanic, or magical, shirt inscribed with nearly the entire text of the Qur’an. Such tunics might have been worn to avert illness and to ward off enemies and evil the sacred words functioning to protect wearers from peril.

Penned in fine black and red ink, the Qur’an text is organized within square compartments framed by gold margins and small red and blue roundels, as well as in elongated lappets along the bottom of the tunic. Larger roundels containing the name of God (Allah) cover the shoulders. Breast medallions feature the Islamic statement of truth (“There is no god but Allah: Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger”) An elongated cartouche on the back fittingly refers to God as the Protector while the collar, sleeves, sides, and front opening are surrounded by a wide band featuring a number of God’s names in gold script.

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Additional Resources

Bringing Empathy into the Classroom: Valuing the Differences Lesson Concept

On its surface, art may seem to have one purpose or audience, but closer examination can help reaffirm a broader human connection. Art can speak to us no matter our ba ...

Activity Type: Lesson Concept

Collection: African Art, American Art, East Asian Art, Native American Art

Culture/Region: Africa, America, East Asia, Europe, South Asia

Subject Area: Collaboration, Communication, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Fine Arts, History and Social Science

Grade Level: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Kehinde Wiley @ VMFA

Produced to accompany the exhibition, "Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic," this video series features the artist himself discussing his background, work, process, philosop ...

Activity Type: Video

Collection: Modern and Contemporary Art

Culture/Region: America

Subject Area: African American, Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Adult, College, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

African American Dreams

This art-based adventure explores the African American experience in North America by pairing visual and written primary sources. The works of art have been chosen fro ...

Activity Type: Art in Depth

Collection: American Art

Culture/Region: America

Subject Area: African American, Fine Arts, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Trans-Regional Exchange

Use this resource set to explore how art can illustrate various ways in which technologies, forms, images, symbols, beliefs and concepts are adopted, adapted, and/or ...

Activity Type: Resource Set

Collection: Ancient Art, East Asian Art, Egyptian Art, South Asian Art

Culture/Region: China, East Asia, Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, Rome, South Asia

Subject Area: Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Art in Depth: Kehinde Wiley at VMFA

Learn more about two works of art by artist Kehinde Wiley on view at VMFA! ...

Activity Type: Art in Depth

Collection: African American Art, Modern and Contemporary Art

Culture/Region: America

Subject Area: African American, Critical Thinking, Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts

Grade Level: Adult, College, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12