Scavenger Hunt for Symbols and Clues

Lesson Plan


Students will examine the image of Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga and find clues that give information about New World and Old World cultures, then identify how the cultures have collided to make a beautiful new style. Students will relate this to modern melding of cultural influences then organize findings into collaborative cluster maps to visualize their learning and thinking processes.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Social Studies


Students will be able to:

  • describe and analyze what they see in Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga;
  • distinguish and interpret clues and symbols; and
  • classify and organize information into categories.


  1. Show students the image of Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga. Make sure students can clearly see all of the special details. Have students describe what they see.
  2. Share the information from the About the Art sheet with the students and point out the “Things to Look For” details of the painting. Treat it like a scavenger hunt where students find the hidden clues.
  3. Ask the students: What symbols are used and what do they mean? Have students find symbols from the New World cultures of Peru and Bolivia as well as the Old World cultures of Spain and Europe. Don’t forget to find details hidden in the ornate decorative work and in the bottom section of the painting.
  4. Have students locate Peru and Bolivia on a map. Then have students locate Spain and Europe on a map. Clarify for students the reason for the monikers “Old” and “New” World.
  5. Students are going to be able to see their thinking and learning by working together to create graphic organizers called cluster maps. On one side of the whiteboard or chart, draw a shape in the center that says “New World” and on the other side draw another cluster map with a center shape that says “Old World.”
  6. Each shape should have spokes coming from it that point to descriptions of symbols or other representations found in the painting. After you have found all you can find, discuss how the melding of two cultures has created a unique and beautiful artistic style. If you wish, you could even create a third cluster map laying out both the Old World and New World symbols in the painting.
  7. Ask students if they can think of a modern example of cultures mixing that has resulted in something unique and beautiful. What about food we typically eat in America or perhaps styles of music that are mixtures of various cultures? Perhaps students might have families that are made from a blending of cultures. Discuss this as a group.


  • World map
  • Note taking paper for each student
  • Paper, chart, or white board to display cluster maps
  • Variety of pencils, markers, or other writing implements
  • About the Art sheet on Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga (found at the end of the lesson plan)
  • Color copies of the image for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Social Studies

21st Century Skills

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

About the Art

Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga

Virgin of the Victory of Málaga (Nuestra Señora de la Victoria de Málaga)

Late 1600s or 1700s

unknown maker

Who Made It?

This painting is attributed to Indian artist Luis Niño, a renowned painter, sculptor, and silver-worker born in Potosí, Bolivia. Niño worked directly for the Archbishop of Potosí and was so famous that his works were exported to Europe, Lima, and Buenos Aires. Two surviving paintings of the Lady of the Victory of Málaga [MAH-la-gah] are signed by Niño. This one may have been signed as well but, if so, the signature was lost when the painting was cut down at some point. However, the similarities between this painting and the others that were signed by Niño have led scholars to credit him for this one as well. In this painting of the Virgin of Málaga, Luis Niño has merged European and Indian artistic traditions and meanings into a unique and engaging work of art.

What Inspired It?

This is a painting of a statue of the Virgin of the Victory of Málaga, which resides in Málaga, Spain. Since Málaga is a port city, the Virgin is considered a patron of sailors, ships, and voyages. The original statue was a gift to the city. It depicts a seated Madonna, the mother of Christ in the Catholic tradition, with the Christ Child in her lap. As with many such statues across Spain, this statue was dressed in luxurious garments depicting the fashions of the time. The fabric of the Virgin’s dress makes it look as though she is standing instead of sitting. To cover the throne on which the Virgin sits, the garments were usually very wide, as seen in this painting. Engravings of the Virgin of Málaga were distributed widely in the New World and may have helped inspire Niño’s painting.



The extraordinary use of gold decoration in this painting is exclusive to Cuzco, Peru, and the surrounding area, including Bolivia. Known assobredorado, or gold overlay in Spanish, the decoration was created by applying gold leaf over raised layers of gesso (primer paint). The highland areas were also known for weaving elegant textiles. The gold patterning on fabrics in this painting may reflect this reputation.

Wide Dress
Wide Dress

The wide dress of the Virgin in the painting is similar to the actual wide cloth gowns that were used to dress statues of the Virgin in Spain. At the same time, the shape recalls the outline of the Inca earth-mother goddess, Pachamama, who often appeared in the shape of a mountain.

Dark Crescent Moon
Dark Crescent Moon

The crescent moon at the feet of the Virgin symbolizes the Virgin’s Immaculate Conception. The moon shape is also reminiscent of the crescent-shaped tupu, or broach pins, that were (and still are) worn as fasteners for traditional Inca capes. When viewed in conjunction with the two vertical lines above the moon shape, the shape of a tumi (a ceremonial knife of the Inca and pre-Inca cultures of Peru and Bolivia) is formed. The tumi is a symbol of victory and conquest.


The Inca considered birds to be sacred creatures for their ability to fly and, consequently, to move closer to the sun god. Beautiful bird feathers were incorporated into clothing and headdresses of the Inca nobility and symbolized exalted status. Painters often incorporated bird feathers into images of the Virgin and Christ to indicate their sacred and honored position in colonial society.

Bottom of the Painting
Bottom of the Painting

The two scenes at the bottom of the painting depict a miracle performed by the Virgin of Málaga in the New World. The scene may show a rescue from a pirate attack, common along the west coast of South America in the 1700s. In the scene on the left, the Virgin of Málaga is seen in a cloud in the uppermost right corner. The miracle took place at sea, because we can see the mast and sail of a ship. We also know that this miracle occurred in the New World since the white flag with red X-shaped cross on one of the ships is the flag of Spain, but only in the New World.

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.