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Image of 'A Roman Triumph'', about 1630, by Peter Paul Rubens. © The National Gallery, London.

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Teachers' Notes

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A Roman Triumph, about 1630
by Peter Paul Rubens
The National Gallery, London

For 2015/16, the one-day Take One Picture Continuing Professional Development courses, run by the National Gallery Education team, will focus on 'A Roman Triumph' by Peter Paul Rubens.

Using the focus painting as a springboard, the Take One Picture course will inspire teachers to look at ways of using paintings in the classroom to promote cross-curricular learning and suggest ways in to paintings to develop pupils' confidence and skill in responding to images.

The Picture
This painting is full of tumultuous movement. Lined up in the very foreground of the composition is a moving procession of figures and animals which parade across the picture from right to left. The viewers are made to feel like spectators watching the parade from the roadside. Indeed we are not the only ones watching; other spectators in the middle ground are seated on a raised bank looking and pointing at the parade. All the figures and animals in the foreground give the impression of being in movement with their raised limbs, fluttering fabrics, brandished torches and instruments and swinging trunks.

The picture is not only full of riotous colour and movement but also full of imaginable noises: you can almost hear the growls of the animals; the horns and pipes being blown by musicians; the pounding of footsteps. The dancing maidens and animals on the right and left sides of the composition are abruptly truncated. This adds to the overall sense of movement and gives the impression that only a section of this continuous parade is made visible, that even more is happening outside of the frame.

The parading figures in Rubens’ composition depict a Roman ‘triumph’. A triumphal procession was the greatest honour that could be given to a Roman general and was usually awarded to celebrate a great military campaign or victory.

2017 Display
A display of work produced by schools based on this painting will be shown at the National Gallery in Summer 2017, and a selection will be published on this website. To be considered for the gallery display, you will need to submit an overview of how a whole class or school has used the picture in a cross-curricular way. A powerpoint slideshow would be preferable, Please do not send any original artworks. Please send your submission to emma.darvill@ng-london.org.uk by Monday 31st October 2016.

Submissions should highlight the process that teachers and learners have used to explore of the painting, and how this process aims to fulfil the following Take One Picture objectives:

  • Promote the visual arts within education

  • Raise pupils’ self-esteem and standards

  • Promote learning outside the classroom as a means of enhancing learning within the classroom

  • Provide a stimulus for building the wider school community

  • Enable pupils to build meaningful connections and inspire a lifelong love of learning

© The National Gallery, London


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