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Framed: 'An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess')'

Pupils from Year 6 of Greenslade Primary School in London took inspiration from the painting An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess') by Massys to reflect on the concept of beauty. Listen to the extract from Frank Cottrell Boyce's novel that inspired the pupils.

Framed: 'An Old Woman'

Frank Cottrell Boyce reads an extract from 'Framed' describing the painting 'An Old Woman' – 1 min
Frank Cottrell Boyce reads an extract from 'Framed' describing the painting 'An Old Woman' – 1 min


Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce reads an extract from his novel 'Framed', describing the National Gallery painting 'An Old Woman'

Frank Cottrell Boyce:

There was another picture, a picture of a different woman, an ugly woman. And when I say ugly, I don't mean not nice-looking. I mean, her face should have been certificate eighteen.

She had big nostrils, pointing out at you like truck exhausts, and as for her eyes, well, I've seen bigger on a potato. Her skin was all wrinkly like an old balloon, especially her neck, which was like a roast dinner gone wrong.

And her clothes were old-fashioned, like from history. She had a random thing plonked on her head. I suppose it was a hat, but it looked more like half a couch. And the worst thing was, the very worst thing was, she was coming out of her dress at the top. If the painter had painted her a minute later, ooh, I don't want to think about it.

Back to 'Framed': Pupils' work – 'An Old Woman'

The children's work

A child's poem about beauty, as read below 


Framed: Description of beauty

A pupil from Greenslade Primary School reads her definition of beauty – 1 min


A pupil from Greenslade Primary School reads her definition of beauty, inspired by paintings in the novel 'Framed'

Greenslade Primary School pupil:

What is beauty? Beauty is a bit like when someone gives you a present. It's the thought that counts. And although appearances may be breath-taking, don't be deceived. A volcano eruption is beautiful – but lethal.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love elegant, strong, fluid lines, that at the same time are delicate. I think most art is beautiful, the artist's heart and soul has poured out from the brush on to the canvas, that's why art's never good unless you really, really want it to be.

And I tend to find you are never beautiful unless you are on the inside. You can tell a bit about people inside from the outside, the way they smile, the way their eyes shine.

That's what I think beauty is. And the thing I think is most beautiful in the whole world, is my dog Charlie – an ugly lab-cross mutt. But when you look at his eyes, they are so trusting, so full of love, ready to love you – and that's what makes me think he looks beautiful on the outside too!

Back to Framed: 'An old Woman – Pupils' work