Why are Religious Paintings Some of The Most Popular Pieces of Artwork?

by Staff

Throughout the history of painting, religion and its themes have always been a popular source of inspiration for artists. With its epic tales of human adventure, suffering, and triumph, religion acts as a moral roadmap to living your life positively and with dignity.


Over the years, these powerful religious parables became the primary source for shaping the parameters of society and culture, especially in the western world. The ethics held within Christianity emerged as the foundations that the civilizations of Europe would be built on after the dark ages.


For artists, these spiritual foundations also dictated much of their creative imagination and the subject matter of their work. As a result, biblical paintings are some of the monumental, extravagant, and most popular paintings of all time.

Virgin on the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci

On its most fundamental level, religion has always been used to interpret the world around us. Ever since human beings became conscious, the world has seemed overwhelmingly mysterious and scary. To combat this inherent fear of the unknown, religion was invented as a means of bringing meaning, understanding, and peace to the world.


As a consequence, many symbols and images reoccur in all religions throughout the world, not just in Christianity. One of the most essential and prominent examples of this is the image of the mother and child.


Known as the Madonna and Child in Christian art, many artists have attempted to capture this symbol’s meaning onto canvas over the years. In Da Vinci’s version, the Virgin Mary lays her arms around two children and is accompanied by an angel. This particular mother and child painting have many interpretations, with the mother (Earth) caring for her children (humanity) at the forefront.

 Christ Crucified by Dieogo Velazquez

Spanish Baroque painter Diego Velazquez became famous for his marvelous Christian paintings. His iconic image of an isolated Jesus nailed to the cross is arguably the most famous one ever conceived and is widely considered one of the best.


This compelling painting normally comes to mind when most people think of the crucifixion scene. However, what makes Velazquez’s painting different from others on the same topic is that the Spanish painter was one of the first to depict Jesus suffering alone. This artistic choice amplifies the message behind the image.

Over time, this image has become the symbol of the Christian faith and is by far the most famous religious painting of any Christian artwork. Even today, all these years later, the image hangs either in the homes or around the necks of millions of Christians worldwide.

The Elevation of the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens


Regardless of their religious context, famous biblical paintings are undeniably some of the greatest paintings of all time. Their level of detail alone is breathtaking and is something missing from modern-day art. Combine this with their powerful imagery and deep symbolism, and it is easy to see why they were so popular throughout the centuries.


Universal themes such as human suffering, sin, faith, redemption, good and evil, and acts of kindness are scattered throughout the Bible, with the story of Jesus being the most powerful example. Flemish Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens captures all these aspects perfectly in his wonderfully detailed Christianity paintings.


They are both beautifully realistic and highly disturbing at the same time. Rubens painted many famous religious paintings and became synonymous with such works. Some of his other most famous religious paintings worth checking out are The Descent from the Cross and The Great Last Judgement, just two.

Lamentation For Christ by Albrecht Durer


As mentioned above, the story of the life and deeds of Jesus Christ hits upon practically every significant lesson the Christian religion wishes to impart to its followers. As a result, many Christian historians and literary scholars have even stated that it is the greatest story ever written.


Christ’s life, message, and example when suffering on the cross can all be viewed as clear guidelines for how a person should live. Above all his other teachings, the image of Christ being crucified on the cross has become the primary image of the Christian faith and was a favorite for artists to depict.


German Renaissance painter Albrecht Durer is among the period’s most important and influential painters. In Durer’s painting of the Lamentation For Christ, the overwhelming feeling of sorrow and regret shines through as a dead Jesus is taken down from the cross. The image is a powerful reminder that Jesus died for humanity’s sins.

 The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt


As well as being one of the greatest ever biblical painters, Rembrandt has also been praised as one of its greatest interpreters. More than just painting the scene, Rembrandt was able to exquisitely capture the message behind these stories and perfectly display the emotions of the characters involved.


Alongside Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt Van Rijn is the greatest and most famous Dutch painter of all time. Yet, among the Dutch master’s extensive collection of paintings, none are more prolific or respected than his epic recreations of scenes from the Bible.


Totaling over 300 paintings on the topic found within the Bible, the spiritual text was clearly a major inspiration for both the art and life of the artist. Some other famous religious paintings worth checking out from Rembrandt are The Storm at the Sea of Galilee, Moses Breaking the Tablets, and St Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem.

The Bottom Line

Not only did religion play an essential part in shaping civilization, but it was also responsible for many of the most popular paintings for centuries. Practically every famous artist from history has some religious artwork in their collection and, as a result, helped millions of people to better understand the messages of Christianity.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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1 comment

Siddarth Star July 13, 2023 - 12:04 am

That’s a lovely writeup good luck


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