Art and Design

What does it feel like to be adored or shunned by the people around you? How are ‘fallen women’ portrayed in 19th century art and music and do they exist today?

Jump to Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4

Key Stage 3

  • Watch the clip with the class and then show Laura Callaghan’s illustration ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’, part of the Aspirational series.  Focus on the expressions of the chorus behind Alfredo and the women in the foreground of the illustration.

  • Ask the class to discuss differences and similarities between the two parties; is Alfredo really friends with all the guests or are they using him? Do Alfredo or Violetta seem popular? Are the women in the illustration good friends? Why do they think this?

  • Create a selection of Laura Callaghan’s illustrations as a class. Each team of four takes one picture, split into four (like a simple jigsaw). Each team member sketches out their section of the illustration. They need to collaborate and work well as a team to complete a successful final piece e.g. matching up the four sections regularly to make sure they all join up correctly to make the complete picture.  


Key Stage 3

  • Students can complete a drawing in Laura Callaghan’s style, using a photograph of their friends or family at a party. Ideally, they should select a photograph of people with exaggerated expressions. Then, use black/brown outlines and flat colour.

  • Extension: Students can trace the outlines of the face and features from the photo first and then colour.

Key Stage 4

  • First, ask students to write down all the meanings they associate with the colours red and white, e.g. anger, death, purity.  Then, watch the clip and look at the image of Violetta. Ask students to discuss how the change in the colour of her dress affects their opinion of her personality and morality.

  • Next, introduce the popular theme of the ‘fallen woman’ in the 19th Century, personified by Violetta.  Show the following artworks:
  • George Cruikshank, 'A destitute girl throws herself from a bridge', 1848
  • W Holman Hunt, 'Awakening Conscience', 1854
  • Nan Goldin, 'The Ballad of Sexual Dependency'
  • Students can then make thumbnail sketches and notes on each artwork under the following headings: Clothing – style/ colour. Figures – pose/ gestures/ form/ mass. Gaze – Where is the subject of the painting looking?


Key Stage 4

  • Ask students to research ‘fallen women’ and Pre- Raphaelite Art; a good place to start is the Tate and the Foundling Museum exhibition

  • Complete an artist research page about William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais or Dante Gabriel Rossetti and ask students to compare the portraits of fallen women with pre-Raphaelite artists’ depictions of idealised, virtuous women. Ask students to consider if these labels still exist today and how this compares to how women are depicted in more recent media campaigns.  


More resources

La traviata interactive opera guide - learn more about the music, story and characters in Verdi's opera

La traviata clips on YouTube

La traviata at Glyndebourne Tour 2018 - see La traviata on stage at Glyndebourne and around the country

La traviata: Behind the Curtain - in autumn 2018 Glyndebourne invites you behind the scenes of this heart-breaking musical love-story

La traviata podcast - Katie Derham explores one of the greatest love stories ever told in opera