7380 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Gillispie School / Elementary  / A Unicorn was Spotted in the Art Room!

A Unicorn was Spotted in the Art Room!

Each month I change the art posters on display in the Art Room. I usually wait for students to notice the images before I comment on the art depicted. This month I hung a portrait of a young lady.

Someone in every class remarked immediately on this portrait. Many students shouted out, “Mona Lisa!” A few Leonardo Da Vinci!” They were quite right in identifying the style of painting – Italian Renaissance. The painter is Raphael, a contemporary of Da Vinci who had indeed seen the Mona Lisa. The subject of this painting, however, is a woman much younger than Mona Lisa. She is wearing a lovely dress and a knockout ruby necklace while holding a small creature.

Most students thought it was a baby goat with fuzzy red ears. But a few looked closer to discover the animal sported a single horn – a unicorn!

This discovery led to many questions. “Why is she holding a unicorn?”, “Were unicorns alive five hundred years ago?”, “What do we know about unicorns?”, “Does the unicorn reveal something about the lady?” When the children delved into their art-making, I read aloud one of the many legends of the unicorn.

My hope is that one day each Gillispie artist will see the wonderful 16th-century unicorn tapestries on display at The Metropolitan Museum in New York and The Cluny Museum in Paris or even Raphael’s painting “Young Woman with Unicorn” in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

Although Raphael created his unicorn portrait over 500 years ago, his imagery connects today to the artistic ”thinking” eyes of our young students.

Susan Walters
Art Teacher


About Gillispie School: Gillispie is an independent toddler through Grade 6 school in La Jolla, CA. We believe that learning is a journey in which children are active participants. Our students partner with teachers to further their academic, creative, and social growth, and we balance a child-centered approach that does not rush childhood with well-researched academic programs that demand higher-level thinking. Click here to learn more about our school.

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