Awesome Allegories

Awesome Allegories lesson plan

Retell favorite stories in allegorical paintings created in the style of Baroque painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

  • 1.

    Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577, in Siegen, Germany. His paintings, which were remarkable due to their accuracy, sumptuous color, and vitality, contained a broad range of subject matter. In addition to his many portraits, Rubens also painted wonderful allegories (story paintings), based upon mythological and religious themes.

  • 2.

    Students create their own allegorical painting. Have students think of a story and write a summary of one scene in that story, using Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils. Describe both the characters and setting in detail so they can be clearly visualized.

  • 3.

    Students cover their work area with recycled newspaper. On paper, students use Crayola Watercolors to paint the main character in the story. Students place the character in the story's environment, with details that reflect their ideas. Make the character as lively and colorful as possible, just as Rubens did in his allegorical paintings.


  • What is an allegory? Have students research and define this term. Students can discuss stories that they have read that may be considered allegories. What characteristics of these stories make them allegories? Remind students that some artwork is designed as an allegory. Have students view multiple pieces of artwork and determine if they think a story is being told. If so, what is the possible story?
  • Students research the German artist Peter Paul Rubens, his life and style of artistry. What characteristics of his work are unique to the time period in which he lived? What is he best known for? What style(s) is he best remembered for? Organize research into an electronic presentation for small group or individual viewing. Students can audio-tape their accompanying speech and comments to this file.
  • Peter Rubens is remembered for his portraits, as well as his allegories. To create a formal portrait in the manner of Rubens, begin with a picture of someone close to you dressed in his best clothes. Use Crayola Tempora Paints to paint your portrait. Focus mainly on the person you are painting, while adding a background that is minimized. Take a digital photo of your portrait and upload it to a classroom file. Write a summary of your work and the message you wished to convey in your artwork. Audio-record your summary and attach this file to your digital photo.
  • With a partner, students write an original, creative story. Students next create an allegorical painting based on this story. In the classroom, these finished paintings can be displayed with the intended stories attached to the back of the artwork. Students view each allegorical painting and attempt to unveil the story attached to the artwork. The viewers stories can then be compared to the creative writing of the artists.


  • Rubens also painted several formal portraits. To create a formal portrait in the manner of Rubens, begin with a picture of someone close to you, dressed in their very best clothes. Use Crayola Tempera Paints to paint your portrait. Focus mainly on the person you are painting, and minimize the background.
  • Create an allegorical painting based upon an original story that you write. Display your finished painting with your story. If you are part of a group that creates these original allegories, display the paintings together, then read the stories to the group one by one. Group members identify the painting that goes with the story.
  • Children who cannot yet write independently can summarize stories orally with partners, describing characters and setting as they imagine them, then use allegorical painting as a way to record visualizations of the story.