• Headdress, early 1900's. Ejagham. Wood, antelope skin, bone; 26-7/16 x 17 x 17 in. Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1990.23

Art of Adornment

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 
Middle School

In a program created especially for middle schoolers, students will explore ways in which various cultures throughout history have used adornment to establish personal and social identity. Body shaping, tattooing, piercing, scarification, cosmetic use, and decorative arrangements of hair reflect diverse cultural values and also relate to issues of self-definition facing students today.

Program Format: 
  • Compare and contrast wearing powdered wigs in the 1700s, with the hairstyle of a Nigerian woman from the early 1900s.
  • Discussion of women's fashion and ideals of beauty in the 1800s (vs. today), based on the painting Countess Széchenyi in the museum.
  • View a Japanese print of man with a tattoo and discuss history of tattooing practices.
  • Discuss Ancient American practice of head shaping.
  • Discuss other beauty practices, including body modification, and scarification.
  • Students will understand that definitions of beauty vary for different cultures and in different time periods.
  • Students will understand that works of art can reflect cultural values.
  • Students will understand that modern adornment methods relate to those used throughout history, for example: body shaping, tattooing, piercing, scarification, cosmetic use, and artful arranging of hair.