Fit for a King or Queen

Lesson Plan


Students will explore the statue of St. Ferdinand, King of Spain with an eye for detail. They will use the ideas and mock techniques from the statue to design a royal figure for themselves.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

Two 45 minute lessons

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • identify descriptive attributes of a sculpture;
  • relate to an artwork in a personal and meaningful way;
  • identify a symbol that represents their “royal identity”; and
  • present an artwork to the class and explain its design.


Day 1

  1. Warm up: Show the class the carved wooden sculpture of St. Ferdinand.
  2. Ask the students what kind of person they think this might be. (A king.) How do they know it is a king? Encourage them to point out specific details in the sculpture (e.g. the elaborate clothing, tunic, cape, the gold, orb).
  3. As the students are looking at the sculpture, use the About the Art sheet to provide them with any background information you would like.
  4. Tell students that they will be making kingly/queenly figures of themselves.
  5. Have the students imagine they are the king or queen or something. Suggest things like being the king/queen of colors (if they like art), the ice (if they like to skate), the basketball court, the library (if they like to read), the stage, the swimming pool, etc.
  6. After the students have decided on a “royal identity,” give each student one 12 x 12 inch piece of poster board and assorted colors of markers, colored pencils, or paint. Have them draw an outline of a body and begin designing their figure. You can also distribute gold paint and various materials (sponges, kitchen utensils, pencil erasers) that the students can use to make patterns similar to the pattern on St. Ferdinand’s cape. If you are creating capes out of fabric, let the students know so they don’t draw or paint a cape for themselves.
  7. If you are using a camera, walk around the room and take a portrait photograph of each student. Either print out the photos or develop the film before the next lesson.

Day 2

  1. Continue working on the royal figures. Have the students cut out their figures and pass out the photos of the students you took during the previous lesson. Have them cut around the outline of their faces and glue the photo onto their figure.
  2. If you are making capes, distribute the fabric, designer paper, or construction paper. Give the students time to decorate their cape with markers, gold paint, or colored pencils. Attach the capes to the figures (if painting, allow the capes to dry first).
  3. Attach hair to the figures using yarn, cotton balls, or construction paper.
  4. Display St. Ferdinand again for the class to see. Point out that the orb he is holding is a symbol commonly associated with St. Ferdinand. Have the students brainstorm a symbol, like St. Ferdinand’s orb, they can depict themselves holding that will represent their beliefs and royal status.
  5. Have the students design and either paint or draw the symbol and attach it to their figure. An alternative method would be to have the students fashion the symbol out of Model Magic, bakers clay, or art dough and then attach it to their figure with a hot glue gun.
  6. Have the students present their creations to the class, explaining the meaning of their “royal identity,” the clothes they designed, and the symbol they are holding. Display the figures for everyone to see.


  • 12 x 12 inch piece of tag board, poster board, or cardboard for each student
  • Assorted colors of markers, colored pencils, or paint
  • Scissors
  • Glue and/or masking tape
  • Optional: Gold paint for decorative designs and paintbrushes
  • Optional: Sponges, kitchen utensils, pencil erasers (to dip in the gold paint and create designs)
  • Optional: Camera
  • Optional: Drawing paper (if not taking photographs)
  • Optional: Yarn, cotton balls, construction paper for hair
  • Optional: Fabric scraps, designer papers or construction paper to create a cape for the figures
  • About the Art sheet on St. Ferdinand, King of Spain (found at the end of the lesson) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • One color copy of the sculpture for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts

21st Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

St. Ferdinand, King of Spain

St. Ferdinand, King of Spain

About 1730–1760

Artist not known, Mexico

Who Made It?

The artist who created this object used various techniques to turn a wooden sculpture into a life-like depiction of St. Ferdinand. For fabric areas, the artist used a technique referred to in Spanish as estofado [ES-toe-FAH-doe]. When using the estofado technique, the artist would first cover the wood with gesso, or base paint, mixed with a brownish-red pigment called bole. Tissue-thin sheets of hammered gold were then applied to the bole base. Next, the artist would apply paint over the gold leaf. The paint layer was then etched through to reveal the gold leaf underneath. To depict areas of skin, such as the face and hands, the artist used a technique known as encarnación [EN-car-nah-see-OWN]. Similar to the estofado technique, the artist would begin by covering the carved wood with white gesso, which was then painted over with flesh-toned paint. A layer of clear, glossy varnish was applied over the paint and gently sanded smooth. The artist would repeat the process of applying paint and sanding it until the buildup of layers resulted in a glowing surface, imitating real skin.

What Inspired It?

St. Ferdinand, or Ferdinand III, was king of Castile and León in Spain during the early 1200s. Born near Salamanca, Spain, he became king in 1217 at the age of eighteen. He inherited the kingdom of Castile from his mother and the kingdom of León from his father, permanently uniting those areas for the first time and forming the core of what would later become Spain. Known as a wise and just ruler, Ferdinand was instrumental in the struggle to reclaim large areas of the Iberian Peninsula, which included Spain and Portugal, from Muslim occupation. Ferdinand had grown up during a period of intense efforts to reclaim the area for the Christians and, as a young king, continued the movement and re-conquered many cities. Ferdinand died in 1252 and was buried in a crypt underneath his chapel in the Cathedral of Seville. He was buried wearing the simple robe and rope belt of a Franciscan friar rather than the royal clothing of a king. He was canonized, or declared a saint, by the Catholic Church in 1671 for his efforts in reclaiming much of Spain for Christianity.

In Spain and Latin America, images of St. Ferdinand are often paired with images of his younger cousin, St. Louis of France, who also became a saint as a result of his religious crusades. Artists and architects of cathedrals in the New World often adorned altars with pairs of statues depicting European royalty who became saints. These altars were known as Altars of the Kings. The cathedral altar in Querétero, Mexico, where this statue is believed to have come from, was dismantled in the 1800s. Its matching statue of St. Louis of France is in a private collection in Mexico City.



The artist used the estofado technique to create an imitation of the elaborate brocaded fabrics of the period. Even though this statue is made of wood, notice how the areas of fabric seem to hang as they would if they were made of cloth.


The artist used the encarnación technique on St. Ferdinand’s face and hands to create a glowing surface that looks like real skin.


Although St. Ferdinand’s symbol is a greyhound, he is more frequently depicted holding an orb topped with a cross in one hand, and a flag with the emblems of Castile and León in the other. This sculpture only depicts an orb. The orb symbolizes St. Ferdinand’s efforts to spread Christianity throughout the Iberian Peninsula.


Notice how St. Ferdinand looks down with a calm expression. This statue would have been placed high on an altar, looking down at the people below.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.