The figure of Jesus is one of the most iconic in history.
The art around the image of Jesus Christ has been idealized both by amateur artists and by great masters.
How is it possible to show on canvas a figure that is both fully human and fully divine? This kind of artistic daring is something even daring to try.
Artists who painted in the Christian tradition have done exactly that for two millennia.
The 10 most famous paintings of Jesus
This is a look at the 10 most famous paintings of Jesus throughout history, as ranked by the experts at Kuadros.
#1 The Last Supper - Leonardo Da Vinci
The most famous painting of Jesus Christ is undoubtedly The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci .
The work recreates the last Easter meeting between Jesus and his apostles, based on the story described in the Gospel of John, chapter 13. The artist imagined, and has managed to express, the desire that haunts the minds of the apostles to know who is betraying his Master.
Painted at the end of the 15th century as a mural on the walls of the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
Fresco paintings are usually created by applying pigment over intonaco, a thin layer of wet lime plaster.
This is normally the best technique to use as it allows the fresco to take care of the natural breathing or sweating that a wall does as moisture moves to the surface.
However, in The Last Supper, da Vinci decides to use oil paint since this material dries much slower, which allowed him to work on the image in a much slower and more detailed way.
Leonardo knew that the natural moisture that seeps through most stone-walled buildings would have to be sealed if he used oil paints, or the moisture would eventually ruin his work.
So the artist added a double layer of plaster, putty and pitch to combat moisture deterioration.
Despite this, the artwork has had to be restored many times in its long history.
As of today, very little remains of the initial top layer of the oil painting as a result of environmental and deliberate damage.
#2 The Transfiguration - Raphael
The Transfiguration of Raphael is the final work of the great Renaissance artist Raphael that was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de' Medici of the Medici banking dynasty.
Originally the work of art was conceived to hang as the central altarpiece of Narbonne Cathedral in France and now hangs in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Vatican City.
After Raphael's death, the painting was never sent to France and the Cardinal hung it instead on the high altar of the church of Blessed Amadeus of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome in 1523.
However, in 1797 the painting was taken by French troops as part of Napoleon's Italian campaign and subsequently hung in the Louvre.
The painting can be seen as reflecting a dichotomy at the simplest level: the redeeming force of Christ, symbolized by the purity and symmetry of the upper half of the painting. This contrasts with the Man's shortcomings, symbolized in the lower half by gloomy and chaotic scenes.
The Transfiguration is related to successive stories in the Gospel of Matthew. The upper part of the painting depicts Christ elevated in front of billowing, illuminated clouds, and on either side of him are the prophets Elijah and Moses. In the lower part of the painting, the Apostles are depicted, unsuccessfully trying to rid the possessed boy of the demons. The upper part shows the transfigured Christ, who seems to be performing a miracle, curing the child and freeing him from evil.
The dimensions of The Transfiguration are colossal, 410 x 279 cm. Raphael preferred to paint on canvas, but this painting was done with oil paints on wood as the chosen medium. Raphael actually showed advanced indications of Baroque period mannerism and techniques in this painting.
The stylized, contorted poses of the lower half-figures indicate mannerism. The dramatic tension within these figures, and the liberal use of light and dark, or chiaroscuro contrasts, represent the Baroque period of exaggerated movement to produce drama, tension, exuberance, or illumination. Actually The Transfiguration was ahead of its time, as was Raphael's death, which came too soon.
This work would be the last painting by Raphael, who would work on it until his death in April 1520.
Cleaning of the painting from 1972 to 1976 showed that only some of the lower left figures were completed by assistants, while most of the painting was by the artist himself.
#3 The Last Judgment - Michelangelo
Michelangelo's Last Judgment is located on the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel. His portrayal of the Second Coming of Christ in "The Last Judgment" generated immediate controversy from the Counter-Reformation Catholic church.
Michelangelo was to paint the end of time, the beginning of eternity, when the mortal becomes immortal, when the elect join Christ in his heavenly kingdom and the damned are thrown into the endless torments of hell.
No artist in 16th-century Italy was better positioned for this task than Michelangelo, whose final work sealed his reputation as the greatest master of the human figure, especially the male nude. Pope Paul III was well aware of this when he accused Michelangelo of repainting the altar wall of the chapel with the Last Judgment. With its focus on the resurrection of the body, this was the perfect subject for Michelangelo.
The powerful composition focuses on the dominant figure of Christ, captured in the moment before the verdict of the Last Judgment is pronounced.
His calm and commanding gesture seems to attract attention and calm the surrounding agitation. In the image, a wide slow rotary movement begins in which all the figures take part. The two upper lunettes with groups of angels carrying the symbols of the Passion in flight are excluded (on the left the Cross, the nails and the crown of thorns; on the right the column of the flagellation, the stairs and the spear with the sponge soaked in vinegar).
In the center of the lower section are the angels of the Apocalypse who are awakening the dead with the sound of long trumpets. On the left the resurrected recover their bodies as they ascend towards heaven (Resurrection of the flesh), on the right angels and demons fight to make the damned fall to hell. Finally, in the background Charon with his oars, along with his demons, makes the damned get out of his boat to lead them before the infernal judge Minos, whose body is wrapped in the coils of the serpent.
The reference in this part to the Inferno from Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia is clear. In addition to praise, the Last Judgment also provoked violent reactions among contemporaries. For example, the Master of Ceremonies Biagio da Cesena said that "it was most dishonest in such an honorable place to have painted so many nude figures that so dishonestly show their shame and that it was not a work for a Pope's Chapel but for stoves and taverns." "(G. Vasari, Le Vite). The controversies, which continued for years, led in 1564 to the decision of the Congregation of the Council of Trent to have covered some of the figures of the Judgment that were considered "obscene".
The task of painting the deck curtains, the so-called "braghe" (trousers) was entrusted to Daniele da Volterra, since then known as the "braghettone". Daniele's "braghe" were only the first to be made. In fact, several more were added in the centuries to come.
#4 Christ Carrying the Cross - El Greco
During his long career in Spain, El Greco made numerous paintings of Christ carrying the cross. Christ Carrying the Cross is an image of perfect humanity. The work stands out for the characteristic brushstrokes with which the painter uses color to model the volumes and distorts the bodies to reflect the character's spiritual longing.
El Greco paints the eyes of Christ with dramatic and exaggerated tears in them. His eyes are the key element of the painting as they express a lot of emotion.
There is a delicate contrast between his robust shoulders and the feminine beauty of his hands. However, there are no signs of pain on his face. Just as his passive hands do not express anguish or effort to carry the cross.
El Greco transformed the image of Christ weighed down and in pain from the heavy cross to one who is calm and ready to face his destiny. Christ's serenity before his sacrifice invites the viewer to accept their own destiny in moments of fear and doubt.
#5 Christ Crucified - Diego Velázquez
This intensely powerful image of Jesus on the cross was painted during the creative period that followed Velázquez's first stimulating trip to Italy. Unlike his other male nudes that appeared in such paintings as the Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan and the Robe of Joseph, his Christ on the Cross is a dead or dying body. which is not accompanied by other narrative elements except for the cross itself. However, the artist manages to endow the work with great dignity and serenity.
The work is believed to have been commissioned for the sacristy of the Convent of San Placido, the austere posture of the Crucified Christ features four nails, the feet together and apparently supported by a small wooden shelf, which allows the arms to form a subtle curve. , instead of a triangle. The head is crowned by a halo, while the face rests on the chest, giving us a glimpse of its features. His straight, limp hair hangs over the right side of his face, its trailing back traced by blood dripping from the wound on his right side.
The image is unusually autobiographical in that it illustrates all the major influences on Velázquez's painting. For starters, he recalls the devotional tone and iconography of the paintings absorbed during his early years in Seville under Francisco Pacheco, an active member of the Spanish Inquisition.
Second, it reflects his skill in figure painting acquired in Spain from the study of Spanish Renaissance artists and, in Italy, from the art of classical antiquity, from High Renaissance art in Rome and Venice, and from the works by Caravaggio in Rome and Naples.
The influence of classicism on the work is shown in the general calmness of the body and its idealized posture. The influence of Caravaggism is evident in the dramatic tenebrism that focuses all attention on the pale body of Christ.
It is true that the image does not have the characteristic drama of baroque painting, which is seen in religious works such as The Crucifixion of Saint Peter or the Descent from the Cross . Instead, it possesses a monumental sculptural quality that elevates it, in keeping with the spirituality of the subject. The composition is starkly simple but with a vivid contrast between the white body and the dark background, and there is naturalism in the way Christ's head falls on his chest. The matted hair is painted with the ease that Velázquez had seen and admired firsthand in examples of Venetian painting.
Velázquez earned a reputation as one of the best portrait painters in Spain, becoming the official painter of Philip IV (reigned 1621-1640) and ultimately the greatest representative of Spanish painting of the Baroque period. However, despite the fact that religious art was especially important in Spain, a country whose ruling monarchy prided itself on being one of the main patrons of Catholic Counter-Reformation art, Velázquez painted comparatively few notable religious paintings.
Instead, the artist painted the world he saw around him, specializing in portraiture, some genre painting (still life), and the occasional history painting. Ironically, given the scarcity of his religious works, he was most influenced by the Italian genius Caravaggio, who is noted above all for his biblical art, executed in an aggressively realistic style. Velázquez was also strongly influenced by the ideas of the Italian Renaissance obtained from his Sevillian teacher Francisco Pacheco.
#6 Christ Carrying The Cross - Titian
Around the year 1508 or 1509, Titian painted an oil painting that is known as Christ Carrying the Cross . The actual origins of the painting are somewhat mysterious, and have even been attributed by various art historians on occasion to another Italian painter, Giorgione. Both painters belonged to a guild of artists linked to the school and the church, both worked at the same time and place, and it is likely that the work was painted expressly for the institution. Another mystery about oil painting is that it was said to have miraculous healing abilities, which have been written about in many historical narratives. Pilgrims prayed in the church at a side altar where the painting was hung and reported that they had been cured of ailments.
The overall mood of the work is gloomy and dark. The brightest colors are muted flesh tones, and the palette is dominated by various shades of brown. On an almost black background, Christ appears in semi-profile carrying the cross on his shoulder. As he looks to the left, an angry-looking executioner tightens a noose around his neck, and another figure slightly behind the executioner looks in behind the scene. The composition is in a style that was innovative at the time, a close-up view that eschewed perspective and depth for intimacy and detail. Characteristically for Titian, the painting is full of action and rest seems distant for the characters represented.
#7 Salvator Mundi - Leonardo Da Vinci
This famous painting, although still very attractive, is no longer considered a work of Leonardo da Vinci and lost its place among our list of the 100 most famous paintings in history.
Leonardo da Vinci was originally thought to have painted Salvator Mundi for King Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany. Experts today question the attribution of the painting to the Italian master, even though it sold at auction in November 2017 for $450,312,500, a record price for a work of art.
Salvator Mundi used to be part of our list of famous paintings , but it was replaced by another painting voted by the public and our artists.
#8 The Disciples of Emmaus - Caravaggio
This work by the master Caravaggio is also known as The Pilgrimage of Our Lord to Emmaus or simply The Supper at Emmaus. The painting shows the moment when the two apostles who accompany him realize that the one who has been speaking to them all day has been their beloved teacher.
Painted at the height of the artist's fame, The Disciples of Emmaus is one of the most impressive religious paintings in the history of art. In this painting, Caravaggio brilliantly captures the dramatic climax of the moment, the exact second when the disciples suddenly realize who has been in front of them from the start. His actions and natural reaction convey his dramatic wonder: one is about to jump out of his chair while the other spreads his arms in disbelief. The harsh lighting underlines the intensity of the entire scene.
In the work, Caravaggio shows the disciples as ordinary workers, with bearded, wrinkled faces and tattered clothes, in contrast to the beardless young Christ, who seems to have come from a different world.
There are some secrets hidden at various points. In the work the artist hid an Easter egg, for example. The shadow cast by the fruit basket on the table also seems to portray a fish, which could be an allusion to the great miracle.
And there are more hidden treasures in this masterpiece. Sometimes a flaw isn't a flaw at all, but a stroke of genius. Take, for example, the weave of the wicker basket teetering on the edge of the table in the center of the painting.
Though countless eyes have marveled at the mysterious drama unfolding within that inn's gloomy interior, the meaning of an almost imperceptible imperfection has hitherto gone unnoticed through the centuries.
A loose twig, protruding from the braid of the fabric, transforms Caravaggio's famous canvas into a daring act, a spiritual challenge for the observer.
To appreciate the full implications of this small detail, it is worth remembering the contours of the general environment that Caravaggio was evoking in his work.
The theme of The Supper at Emmaus is something that has inspired great masters of history, from Rembrandt to Velásquez. The key moment is narrated in the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. There the story of the intimate meal of Christ with the two disciples, Lucas and Cleofás, who ignore the true identity of the companion is told. In the painting the bread has already been broken and blessed, and the time has come, according to the Gospel account, for Christ to "open" the eyes of his followers and disappear "from their sight."
The masterpiece captures a mystical threshold between shadow and light, the magical second before Christ, who is enveloped by the silhouette of a stranger behind him, disappears from the world. In that immeasurable moment between revelation and disappearance, Caravaggio spins his plot, the masterful encounter between two worlds.
When the truth is revealed, Christ's paternal uncle, Cleopas, rises from his chair in panic and awe at the revelation: his elbows rise dynamically through the sleeves of his coat.
On the other side of the wicker fruit bowl, on the right, Lucas opens his arms wide, as if reclaiming the implausibility of the scene, drawing the same posture on the cross at the moment of his painful death. Meanwhile, the innkeeper is unperturbed, staring blankly as he listens to the words that Christ has spoken to his stunned disciples, unable to grasp the meaning of a momentous moment for humanity.
The Disciples Of Emmaus is ranked no. 82 on the list of famous paintings
#9 The Christ Pantocrator
The Christ Pantocrator is a painted wooden panel dating from the 6th century from Saint Catherine's Monastery located in Sinai, Egypt. This painting is considered one of the oldest Byzantine religious icons and is the oldest known work in the Pantocrator style.
The painted panel has a height of 84 cm with a width of 45.5 cm and a depth of 1.2 cm. It is believed that the painting was originally larger, but was cut down at the top and sides at some point, for reasons unknown, to produce the current dimensions. In the work Christ is shown dressed in a purple robe. - a color commonly chosen to represent those of imperial status and royalty. This choice of color for his robe is a symbol of his status and importance. Christ is represented raising his left hand as a sign of blessing and holding a book with his right.
We can assume that this book is probably a Gospel because it is adorned with jewels in the shape of a cross. The painting is deliberately asymmetrical to symbolize the dual nature of Christ. The left side of Christ is symbolic of his human nature with his features depicted as much softer and lighter. While the right side of Christ symbolizes his divinity with his severe gaze and intense features. The eyes themselves are different in shape and size, as well as the hair on her left side being pulled back behind her shoulder.
One of the most important Christian icons is Christ Pantocrator. This image portrays Jesus as the sovereign ruler of the world. Christ Pantocrator was one of the oldest images of Jesus and appears in the most prominent places in cave churches.
The word Pantocrator means "Almighty". In the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX), the word pantocrator is the translation of "Lord of hosts" and "Almighty God". In the book of Revelation, pantocrator appears nine times as a title emphasizing the sovereignty and power of God.
The Christ Pantocrator icon emphasizes the omnipotence of Jesus, his power to do anything. Jesus is the “Ruler of All” who upholds all things. The symbolism of Christ Pantocrator (explained below) is inspired by Roman imperial imagery to project his sovereign power. The early Christians used cultural symbols to proclaim the sovereign power of the risen Christ.
In addition, the location of Christ Pantocrator in the apse (the wall of the front sanctuary) also has a theological significance. Byzantine churches were modeled after the Roman basilica, the king's chamber for holding court. The apse was the position of authority where the ruling official sat. Jesus' position in the apse declares that he is the rightful ruler and sovereign judge over all.
Christians began to visually represent Jesus in the late 300s, once the threat of persecution no longer existed. These early images present Jesus as a stoic figure sitting on a throne with a scroll. In the 600s, Christ Pantocrator emerged as a simplification of that early image. The appearance of Christ Pantocrator has hardly changed in the last 1,500 years.
Most of the early images of Jesus were destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy.
#10 Christ of Saint John of the Cross
By far the most popular of all Dalí's religious works is undoubtedly his "Christ of Saint John of the Cross", whose figure dominates the bay of Port Lligat. The painting was inspired by a drawing, preserved in the Convent of the Incarnation of Ávila, Spain, and made by Saint John of the Cross himself after having seen this vision of Christ during an ecstasy. The people by the ship are derived from a painting by Le Nain and a drawing by Diego Velázquez for The Surrender of Breda.
At the foot of his studies for the Christ, Dalí wrote: "First of all, in 1951, I had a cosmic dream in which I saw this image in color and that in my dream it represented the nucleus of the atom. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical meaning. : I considered the Christ in 'the very unity of the universe'! Secondly, thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I geometrically elaborated a triangle and a circle, which summarized aesthetically all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle".
This work was considered banal by a leading art critic when it was first exhibited in London.
The painting was one of the most controversial purchases made by Dr Tom Honeyman, then Director of the Glasgow Museums. It is now widely recognized that Dr Honeyman made a very astute decision in proposing to the then Glasgow Corporation that the city purchase the painting.
Honeyman not only got the painting for less than list price, but also bought the copyright to the work from Salvador Dalí, thus ensuring a long-term legacy of the purchase.
Initially, however, the painting was not well received by all, with students at the Glasgow School of Art arguing that the money could have been used to purchase works by Scottish or Glasgow artists.
After being exhibited at Kelvingrove in 1952, the Dalí attracted visitors in droves.
The painting in the Glasgow Museums collection has not been without drama, having been damaged twice, most famously when the canvas was severely torn by a visitor wielding a sharp stone. Kelvingrove Conservators were able to repair the painting to the point that the damage is now barely visible.
More than 60 years after its original purchase, the painting's enduring appeal shows no sign of abating and is now one of the museum's most popular exhibits.