Cause and Effect

St. Ferdinand, King of Spain
Artist not known, Mexico
About 1730–1760

Students will critically examine and discuss the image of St. Ferdinand, King of Spain and use what they learn to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of cause and effect. Students will work collaboratively to create a cause-and-effect chart relating to both the artistic style of the object and the historical significance of the subject represented.

Intended Age Group
Elementary (grades K-5)
Standards Area
Social Studies
Lesson Length
One 50 minute lesson

Students will be able to:

  • describe and analyze what they see in the image of St. Ferdinand, King of Spain;
  • discuss symbolic representations of ideas; and
  • collaborate in groups to identify cause-and-effect relationships.


  1. Show students the image of St. Ferdinand, King of Spain. Ask students to describe what they see, interpret any clues, and determine what they can infer from the image. What things catch their eyes and generate questions? What is the man holding in his hand? Is the robe real?
  2. Share the information from the About the Art sheet with students and tell the students that this is a sculpture depicting St. Ferdinand, a King of Spain.
  3. Ask students to locate Spain on a map. Now locate Mexico where the sculpture was made. Notice the distance.
  4. Go over the “Things to Look For” information from the About the Art sheet and discuss the realism of the sculpture. You might point out that the statue was made before photography was invented and artists tried to make things look as real as possible.
  5. Explain the history of King Ferdinand available in the About the Art sheet. If time allows you could use other sources of information from the “Find Out More” section of this object’s Creativity Resource webpage. King Ferdinand was named a saint by the Catholic Church for his deeds.
  6. Make a chart with “Cause” written on one side and “Effect” written on the other. Using what students have learned about the life of King Ferdinand and the sculpture St. Ferdinand, King of Spain, ask the students to list as many causes and effects as they can find.
  7. Examples: Cause—He conquered most of Spain; Effect—Catholicism became the dominant religion and culture of Spain. Cause—Catholicism is dominant in Spain; Effect—the church names King Ferdinand a saint; Cause—Ferdinand was considered a good leader and planner; Effect—he was named patron saint of persons in authority, the poor, prisoners, engineers, and the Spanish Army.
  8. Prompt students to think also about the cause and effect of how the artist chose to create the work of art, for example: Cause—the artist applied an encarnación technique on St. Ferdinand’s face and hands; Effect—the skin of the sculpture looks like it glows. Do they think the artist did a good job making the skin look real? Keep going with other causes and effects that students can identify.


  • World map
  • Note-taking paper for each student
  • Paper, chart, or white board to display cause-and-effect charts
  • Variety of pencils, markers, or other writing implements
  • About the Art sheet on St. Ferdinand, King of Spain (found at the end of the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • Color copies of the image for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards
  • Social Studies
21st Century Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

St. Ferdinand, King of Spain

About 1730–1760

Artist not known, Mexico

About 1730–1760

Height: 76 in.

Gift from Sam Houston in honor of Ms. Helen Bonfils, 1956.91

Photograph © Denver Art Museum 2009. All Rights Reserved.

About the Artist

The artist who created this object used various techniques to turn a wooden sculpture into a life-like depiction of St. Ferdinand. For fabric areas, the artist used a technique referred to in Spanish as estofado [ES-toe-FAH-doe]. When using the estofado technique, the artist would first cover the wood with gesso, or base paint, mixed with a brownish-red pigment called bole. Tissue-thin sheets of hammered gold were then applied to the bole base. Next, the artist would apply paint over the gold leaf. The paint layer was then etched through to reveal the gold leaf underneath. To depict areas of skin, such as the face and hands, the artist used a technique known as encarnación [EN-car-nah-see-OWN]. Similar to the estofado technique, the artist would begin by covering the carved wood with white gesso, which was then painted over with flesh-toned paint. A layer of clear, glossy varnish was applied over the paint and gently sanded smooth. The artist would repeat the process of applying paint and sanding it until the buildup of layers resulted in a glowing surface, imitating real skin.

What Inspired It

St. Ferdinand, or Ferdinand III, was king of Castile and León in Spain during the early 1200s. Born near Salamanca, Spain, he became king in 1217 at the age of eighteen. He inherited the kingdom of Castile from his mother and the kingdom of León from his father, permanently uniting those areas for the first time and forming the core of what would later become Spain. Known as a wise and just ruler, Ferdinand was instrumental in the struggle to reclaim large areas of the Iberian Peninsula, which included Spain and Portugal, from Muslim occupation. Ferdinand had grown up during a period of intense efforts to reclaim the area for the Christians and, as a young king, continued the movement and re-conquered many cities. Ferdinand died in 1252 and was buried in a crypt underneath his chapel in the Cathedral of Seville. He was buried wearing the simple robe and rope belt of a Franciscan friar rather than the royal clothing of a king. He was canonized, or declared a saint, by the Catholic Church in 1671 for his efforts in reclaiming much of Spain for Christianity.

In Spain and Latin America, images of St. Ferdinand are often paired with images of his younger cousin, St. Louis of France, who also became a saint as a result of his religious crusades. Artists and architects of cathedrals in the New World often adorned altars with pairs of statues depicting European royalty who became saints. These altars were known as Altars of the Kings. The cathedral altar in Querétero, Mexico, where this statue is believed to have come from, was dismantled in the 1800s. Its matching statue of St. Louis of France is in a private collection in Mexico City.



The artist used the estofado technique to create an imitation of the elaborate brocaded fabrics of the period. Even though this statue is made of wood, notice how the areas of fabric seem to hang as they would if they were made of cloth.


The artist used the encarnación technique on St. Ferdinand’s face and hands to create a glowing surface that looks like real skin.


Although St. Ferdinand’s symbol is a greyhound, he is more frequently depicted holding an orb topped with a cross in one hand, and a flag with the emblems of Castile and León in the other. This sculpture only depicts an orb. The orb symbolizes St. Ferdinand’s efforts to spread Christianity throughout the Iberian Peninsula.


Notice how St. Ferdinand looks down with a calm expression. This statue would have been placed high on an altar, looking down at the people below.

Funding for object education resources provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.

The images on this page are intended for classroom use only and may not be reproduced for other reasons without the permission of the Denver Art Museum. This object may not currently be on display at the museum.