A devout Catholic, the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens became the most influential exponent of Counter-Reformation painting in Northern Europe. Famous for his large-scale religious and history paintings, full of sensuous colour and drama, he socialized in the leading circles of European society as both an artist and diplomat. Despite the distance separating Rubens from the ordinary churchgoer, some of his Catholic pictures, like the celebrated triptych Descent from the Cross (Rubens) (1612), are intensely moving, and his impact on later painters was enormous. See also: Samson and Delilah (1610). Christian Gifts
Even in Protestant Amsterdam, however, there remained a modest demand for religious paintings. One of the most important commissions received by the young Rembrandt, was five paintings for Prince Frederick Henry of Orange - the leading soldier in the Dutch wars against Catholic Spain - on the subject of Christ's Passion. In addition to his skill as a portraitist, Rembrandt went on to become the greatest religious painter of Dutch Protestantism, noted for works like: The Blinding of Samson (1636), The Sacrifice of Isaac (1636), Susanna and the Elders (1647), Bathsheba Holding King David's Letter (1654), Jacob Blessing the Children of Joseph (1656), and Return of the Prodigal Son (1666-69). Christian Wall Art
Since its beginnings during the first century of the Roman Empire, Christianity has spread around the world to become the principal religion, value-system, and social agenda of mankind: at least until the 20th century. Run first by Christ and the Apostles, it gradually gave birth to its own hierarchical organization, the Christian Church, which over time became the largest and most influential patron of the arts. Indeed, from the outset, the Christian Church used many different types of art in order to create an identity for itself, increase its power and thus attract worshippers. In the process it developed its own Christian iconography, relying heavily on architecture (cathedrals, churches, monasteries), sculpture (statues of the Holy Family, as well as prophets, apostles, saints), painting (altarpieces, church murals), decorative art (stained glass, mosaics) and illuminated manuscripts (Gospels, psalters). In fact, during the early 16th century, the Church commissioned so much Biblical art - using money raised through higher taxes, and the 'sale' of benefices and indulgences - that it led to widespread protests: protests that coalesced into the Reformation, and the division of the Church into Roman Catholic and Protestant. Even so, one can say that, in the West at least, the history of art is the history of Christian art. Christian Gifts

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. ... Christian Gifts


Much of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire is Christian art, although this in large part because the continuity of church ownership has preserved church art better than secular works. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Roman Catholic Church commissioned and funded production of religious art imagery.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth. Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. ... Christian Gifts

“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron's garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. ... Christian Gifts
Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched.’
Immortal religious paintings from the Renaissance include: The Flagellation of Christ (1460) by Piero della Francesca; The Last Supper (1495-98) and The Virgin of the Rocks (1484) by Leonardo da Vinci; Lamentation over the Dead Christ (c.1490) by Andrea Mantegna; The Sistine Madonna (1513) and The Transfiguration (1518-20) by Raphael; The Assumption of the Virgin (1516-8) by Titian; the Assumption of the Virgin (Parma Cathedral) (1524-30) on the ceiling of the dome in Parma Cathedral by Correggio; The Wedding Feast at Cana (1563) and Feast in the House of Levi (1573) by Paolo Veronese; and The Crucifixion (1565) by Tintoretto. The greatest Christian Renaissance sculpture included: The Gates of Paradise (1425-52, Florence Baptistery) by Lorenzo Ghiberti; The Incredulity of St Thomas (1467) by Andrea Verrocchio; numerous items of devotional terracotta sculpture by the Florentine Della Robbia family; Pieta (1500), David (1504) and the Tomb of Pope Julius II (1505-45) by Michelangelo. But surely the most iconic Christian art of the 16th century must be the Sistine Chapel frescoes, painted by Michelangelo. These include The Genesis Fresco (1508-12) - see in particular The Creation of Adam (God Passing the Spark of Life). Christian Wall Art
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