Renaissance Art Lesson Plan for High School

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Use this lesson plan to introduce your students to some of the major themes of Renaissance art. Students will be exposed to some of the famous works of the Renaissance and will learn specific thematic and aesthetic traits.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the Renaissance as a period in European history.
  • Define and describe major themes in the art of the Renaissance.
  • Locate and analyze themes, aesthetic principles, and symbols in certain Renaissance artworks.


90-120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.


Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


  • Copies of the lesson quiz
  • Packet containing images of Renaissance artwork
  • Image of The School of Athens by Raphael to project on the screen


  • Start class by asking students to define the Renaissance. If this is not a term they've encountered yet, explain that it was an era from the 14th through 17th centuries in Europe characterized by wealth from international trade and an explosion of art.
  • Run students through a brief slideshow of famous Renaissance art (Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, Cimabue, Verrocchio, etc). Ask students to raise their hands when they see an image they recognize. Afterwards, ask students to describe what they saw. Then ask the following:
    • What common ideas or themes did you see in this artwork? How would you describe the aesthetic or visual traits of this art?
  • Begin the video lesson Themes in Renaissance Art: David & Goliath, Equestrian & State Portraits. Pause the video at 2:30 and discuss this information.
    • Why did the Italian city-state of Florence turn to David as a symbol for their identity?
    • What does it tell us about the culture of the Renaissance that the Florentines used a religious symbol for their city? Do you think the other Italian cities and kingdoms of Europe would have understood Florence's message when they saw the David statues?
  • Resume and complete the video. Discuss this information.
    • How are the equestrian statues different from the David statues? How are they similar? How do both help communicate the strength of independent city-states?
    • What role did portraits have in the Renaissance? How do you think the emphasis on portraiture impacted the aesthetics of the Renaissance? What can this tell us about social values at the time? Did wealthy patrons want to appear emotional or calm? Did they show off their wealth or hide it?
  • You may test student understanding with the lesson quiz.

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