Do siblings/ best friends help you out or get you into more trouble? 

Artist links: Loui Jover (drawing), Julie Sarloutte (textiles), Nicholas Nixon (photography), Gillian Wearing OBE (conceptual)

Key Stage 3

Firstly listen and watch the excerpt from Cosí fan tutte; 'Prenderò quel brunettino' ('I'll take the brunette one').  

  • If students haven’t seen the opera yet, ask them who the two women might be and describe their relationship.
  • If students have seen the opera, a more in-depth discussion could take place comparing the relationship between the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella and best friends Ferrando and Guglielmo.  

Then, using the character descriptions on the Cosí fan tutte opera guide, ask students to record the character traits of the two sisters.

Introduce the painting, The Cholmondeley Ladies by playing spot the difference; 

  • Either photocopy the painting on A4 in black & white for each student and cut out the face from the photocopy or ask students to sketch the two sisters in the painting.
  • Instead of using the faces from the painting, students could sketch the portraits of Fiordiligi and Dorabella using photographs from the character descriptions or a general portrait proportion guide.
  • They should colour the clothes based on their character traits e.g. Fiordiligi is passionate so could wear red/ purple. This could fit easily with a portrait drawing scheme.

Key Stage 4

Start with a wider discussion about the portrayals of siblings in art, like the Cholmondeley sisters in the activity above and more recently, Gillian Wearing’s photograph of her sister Self Portrait as My Sister Jane Wearing.

This could lead into further discussion about changing identity: at school, within the family unit and within peer groups.


Using stills from the opera, students could explore and experiment with media, either with embroidery or drawing surfaces and ink.  

  • Both Loui Jover and Julie Sarloutteuse close up film stills as the starting point for their work in contrasting media.  
  • Students could choose two images below to recreate using newspaper and black ink and another with embroidery; they could directly embroider over the photograph if it were enlarged.


Homework Extension

Inspired by Nicholas Nixon’s portfolio of photographs of the Brown Sisters, taken every year for forty years, students could find an old family photograph of siblings/ parents/ grandparents.  

  • Next, take another photograph of the same family members in the same positions or order to document how they have changed.
  • It would also be a great opportunity to discuss the changes brought about by digital photography and smartphones as some students might find it difficult to find printed photos at home. If this is the case, they could ask a parent/ carer to print one out from social media sites.