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ARTplay: Listen to the Music in Art

By Marianne Ruggiero
Coordinator of Family Programs at The RISD Museum

What kinds of music did people make long ago and all around the world?
One way to find the answer to that question is to look at visual art that refers to music.

Here are 4 images of paintings and sculptures located at the RISD Museum of Art (see A, B, C, and D below). Answer the following questions, then look at the bottom of page and see how many you got right.

1. Can you find the relationship to music in each one?

2. Not bad! Okay, let’s see if you can identify the following:

  • String instrument
  • Brass instrument
  • Percussion instrument
  • Wind instrument

3. Now let’s put art and music together. How do each of the instruments in these artworks sound? To hear music samples, click on the images or the text link below.

Note: The images of artwork from The RISD Museum collection will remain on the  Kidoinfo website for only 3 months as requested by the Museum.  Although the images have been removed, kids may still enjoy doing some of  the following projects.

(Click to hear instrument)

Indian, Siva Nataraja (King of Dancers)
around 1400, bronze
46 1/2 x 37 1/2 in.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Museum Appropriation Fund
Photography by Erik Gould


(Click to hear instrument)

Giovanni Batista Tiepolo, The Angel of Fame
1750, fresco mounted on canvas
130 1/4 x 78 in.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Museum Appropriation Fund


(Click to hear instrument РMalague̱a played by the Providence Mandolin Orchestra)

William Morris Hunt, Portrait of Ellen M. Brown
oil on canvas
42 1/2 x 30 3/8 in.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Bequest of Mrs. Ellen M. Berry
Photography by Erik Gould

(Click to hear bagpipe)
(Click to hear bassoon)

Meissen, The Monkey Band
around 1749, porcelain, enamel, and gilding
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Bequest of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich
Photography by Erik Gould

1. Identifying instruments in the art

  • A shows the Hindu god Shiva holding double-drum or damaru; there are also bells on the bracelets around Shiva’s ankles.
  • B shows a trumpet.
  • C shows a mandolin.
  • D shows a conductor, singers, and musicians playing the flute, piano, bagpipes, bassoon, and trumpet.

2. Identify the types of instruments in the artwork

  • String instrument – C
  • Brass instrument – B, D
  • Percussion instrument – A
  • Wind instrument – D

ARTplay is a monthly column by Marianne Ruggiero from The RISD Museum in which various themes and activities will introduce kids and parents to the museum’s collection both online and off. Each month Kidoinfo will help spark your children’s interest in art – they can learn about different works at the museum and download a related activity to create offline. Be sure to visit the museum and explore the art in person. On Free-for-All Saturdays (the last Saturday of every month), kids may continue their exploration through a variety of hands-on workshops, performances, videos, and special gallery quests throughout the day.

All additional inquires or requests should be directed to: Melody Ennis, Coordinator of Photographic Services, The RISD Museum, 224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903. 401 454-6535. E-mail inquires to: mennis@risd.edu

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