Wallface: A different view of portraits

This learning resource supports KS3 Art and Design students to critically analyse and evaluate portraiture from an uncommon perspective. They are encouraged to look at ancient Roman objects and National Portrait Gallery images.

Guidance for teachers

Teachers’ Notes – KS3 Art and Design – Portraits: ancient and more modern (PDF)
- includes delivery of the National Curriculum, content and learning objectives

Learning resources - Romans

Wallface Portraits Activity Worksheet (PDF)
- how has the artist used light and colour? What do they want to tell us about their sitter? How would you plan a portrait?

Roman Object images (PDF)
- including carvings of gods such as Sol, face pots and tombstones.

Roman Object – Remembrance Worksheet (PDF)
- how do we remember people who have died? Features images of Roma grave markers and tombstones.

Roman Object – Propaganda Worksheet (PDF)
- how do powerful people tell everyone else about themselves? Includes images and explanations of coins.

Roman Object – Coventina’s Well (PDF)
- more about the water goddess Coventina. Also covers how a well was discovered dedicated to her by Victorian miners. Includes a photo of the carved altar.

Roman Object – Artistic materials and skills (PDF)
- how do we make portraits? Includes examples of Roman stonework, clay and painted pictures.

3D Roman objects

Click the images below to examine them. You can zoom in and rotate the images:

Maenad mount

This surviving Roman copper alloy mount, possibly from a piece of furniture. It shows the bust of a maenad coming out of a scallop shell. Maenads were the female followers of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.

Maenad mount by English Heritage on Sketchfab

Hooded spirit carving

This object has been identified as either as part of the native British dieties Genius Cucullatus or the classical god Telesphorus, found at Birdoswald.

Genii Cucullati, also known as hooded spirits, are found across the Romano-Celtic world. They often occur in threes although other examples are known to be singular. Their religious role is unknown.

Statue of Fortuna

This was found at Birdoswald. Initially only the head was recovered and the body was found later. Her missing arm originally held a gubernaculum, or ships rudder, which is now lost. Fortuna, godess of fortune and luck, was popular in miliary settings.

Gravestone of a woman with child

This gravestone was discovered in Carlisle . It depicts a fashionable woman with her son. Her pet bird sits on her lap. The stone is framed by a winged phinx holidng a skull with two lions in profile devouring human heads.

Tombstone of the infant Vacia

Found in Carlisle, the tombstone is dated to the second century. The inscription tells us that this tombstone was for the infant Vacia, aged three. The stone depicts a much older female figure in a belted tunic and holding a bunch of grapes.

Ring of Minerva

The ring depicts the face of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and war. It was carved from amber that probably originated in the Baltic regions. From there, it travelled to Aquileia, north west Italy, where it was carved.

Learning resource when visiting the museums of Hadrian's Wall

Art and Design of ancient objects Worksheet (PDF) - asks questions to encourage students to look more closely at objects in museums

Learning resources - National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery and Wallface Worksheet (PDF)
- provides structure in examining online portraits of famous people from the last 500 years.

National Portrait Gallery Portraits

Each worksheet includes a portrait and biography of an antiquarian who helped conserve Hadrian's Wall:

Arts Award Case Study

165 children from KS3 at Haydon Bridge School were entered into their Bronze Art Award. They visited 10 of the Hadrian’s Wall museums. Three artists worked with the students. These were:

  • Isla Jones, an award winning multimedia artist. She helped students create their own digital portraits in a classical style similar to William Stukeley.
  • Ruby Dale, a pen and ink portrait artist. Ruby taught pupils a dot and dash technique, echoing the stippled etching of John Leland.
  • Ashley Hipkin, an internationally-renowned sculptor. She encouraged students to sculpt their own clay, wax and plaster mould to make multiple copies of the same image. This resembled the processes the Romans used in their pottery.

Read the Artists' thoughts about the Wallface project (PDF)


During the summer of 2014, the National Portrait Gallery loaned portraits of antiquarians who helped conserve Hadrian’s Wall to 11 museums along the World Heritage Site. This was to support a KS3 (ages 11-14) Art and Design resource.

This Wall-wide project was funded by The Arts Council and led by Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives during 2014/15. This learning programme has been devised and delivered by Yvonne Conchie in collaboration with the members of the Hadrian’s Wall Education Forum.


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