Rigoletto Teaching Resources

Art and Design Key Stage 3

Rigoletto Art and Design Key Stage 3

Lesson one

Theme/ Activity headline: The Jester- The Entertainer. Rigoler- from the French meaning to laugh; rire, rire de, rigoler, railler, se moquer de, blaguer

Curriculum attainment targets: to analyse and evaluate their own work, and that of others, in order to strengthen the visual impact or applications of their work

Visual elements: line, composition, colour, shape

Starter activity

  • Look at images of jesters.
  • Compare ‘Stańczyk’ 1862 by Jan Matejko with ‘Keying Up: The Court Jester’ by William Merritt Chase.
  • What are the artists saying about the jesters?
  • What colours are used in the costumes?

Main activity

A jester, court jester, or fool was historically an entertainer during the medieval and Renaissance eras, who was a member of the household of a nobleman or a monarch employed to entertain him and his guests. A jester was also an itinerant performer who entertained common folk at fairs and markets.

Make some line drawings from artists depictions looking at the idea of a jester’s face and costume, hat and appearance as one of mirth and entertainer.

You might look at jester and joker playing cards and experiment with black and white imagery and balance in design.


Design your own jester/joker playing card. Either do this in black and white or stick to the primary colours.

Lesson two

Theme/ Activity headline: The Jester – The Fool. Mockery, Signs, Symbols and Costume.

Curriculum attainment targets: To use a range of techniques and media, including painting. About the history of art, craft, design and architecture, including periods, styles and major movements from ancient times up to the present day

Visual Elements: shape, colour, pattern, rhythm

Starter activity

Look at images of jesters such as those by Paul Cézanne, Georges Rouault and Fernand Léger.

How are patterns and repeated colours used? Look at images of jester’s hats.

What is the symbolism of the cap and bells?

Main activity

Under the guise of entertainer, the jester could joke at his king’s expense- and get away with it. The fool was kept at court for luck and to ward off the evil eye. The jester’s costume was traditionally multicoloured and patched and the bright colours symbolised eccentricity. 

Draw out a design for a jester’s hat or costume- you should take inspiration from the images observed.

Look at images and ideas around the movement Orphism.

Look at the idea of repeating geometric shapes across a design and breaking a 2D surface up to suggest movement and rhythm. 

Taking a simple template for a jester’s costume or hat, design a pattern inspired by Orphism. Use a bright colour palette. This could be completed in watercolours.


Look at fashion and costume inspired by the jester/ harlequin costume. Can you design your own tee shirts based on patterns explored?

Lesson three

Theme/ Activity headline: The Jester – The Clown, Buffoon, Joker. Depiction of fools in circus and films. The Marotte.

Curriculum attainment targets: to increase their proficiency in the handling of different materials

Visual elements: shape, form, pattern, surface, proportion

Starter activity

Look at images and discuss the role of the jester and the clown. In small groups make some facial expressions that jesters or clowns might use.

  • The Marotte
  • The Pierrot

Main activity

A duality of personality is often portrayed in the role of the clown in the circus and in history. Face paintings can often depict this sad/ happy relationship and forced smiles. 

Jesters have Marottes; In Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, the singer of the title-role—who is a jester—carries a marotte, which often has on it the faces of comedy and tragedy. 

A marotte is a prop stick or sceptre with a carved head on it. The word is borrowed from the French, where it signifies either a fool’s “bauble”, or a fad/craze. Typically carried by a jester or harlequin, the miniature head will often reflect the costume of the jester who carries it.

Design and draw a marotte.

Model a Marotte in clay or plasticine or modelling materials.


Develop ideas for the concept of a joker, looking at the key figures of the Joker and Harley Quinn in the Batman Series. 

Draw out a face painting image for either.

Lesson four

Theme/ Activity headline: The Jester – Harlequin unable to control his fate – lost the right to cry. Commedia dell’arte.

Curriculum attainment targets: to use a range of techniques to record their observations in sketchbooks, journals and other media as a basis for exploring their ideas.

Visual elements: shape, form, colour, surface, texture

Starter activity

Picasso recorded characters from Commedia dell’arte. He pictured both himself and his son as the Harlequin.

Look into masks used for characters in Commedia dell’arte.

Look how they traditionally cover the top part of the face to allow for the mouth to be exposed. The Commedia dell’Arte performers originated in the 1530s and 1540s, they wanted to be immediately recognised as the familiar characters they portrayed, as well as being exciting. 

Main activity

Draw out a design for a jester mask. You may want to focus on the character of Harlequin or Zanni. 

You may want to make a mask. This could be done with simple templates and Papier-mâché. 

The Commedia masks must show emotion and intelligence as they are covering the face which is the main place emotion can be seen on someone. Masks should be an extension of an actor and their costume, hair and accessories. 

Masks tell the audience who the character is. 

There is a sadness to this aspect as it alludes to the fact that jesters cannot convey their true identities and feelings- a theme in Rigoletto.


Continue to decorate the mask. Photograph yourself or someone else wearing it.

Image credits: Rigoletto, Festival 2019, artwork by Shadric Toop

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