Many of these genre paintings contained subtle moral messages about how to live a Christian life, as well as not so subtle messages about the dangers of vice. This low-key Protestant iconography was a complete contrast to the intense Biblical scenes, such as the Crucifixion and the Lamentation, favoured by Catholic art. Still lifes provided another example of this moralistic art. Known as Vanitas painting, this genre consisted of arrangements of food and other objects laid out on a table, complete with symbolic messages that frowned upon gluttony and sensual indulgence. There were two varieties of vanitas paintings: "banquet pieces" (pronkstilleven), or "breakfast pieces" (ontbijtjes). Exponents of pronkstilleven included: Harmen van Steenwyck (1612-56), Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-84) and Willem Kalf (1622-93). While the leading practitioners of ontbijtjes included: Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680) and Pieter Claesz (1597-1660). Christian Wall Art The Italian Early Baroque painter Caravaggio was one of the heroes of the Catholic Counter-Reformation arts campaign. Not because of his piety, but because he painted Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Saints, with such unbelievable naturalism. Caravaggio's brand of unsophisticated realism was the perfect style for the Church's message. It gave key Biblical events an immediacy which no other painter had achieved. By abandoning the stylistic pretensions of late Mannerism - a style which was understood only by an educated minority, he provided the instant inspirational impact demanded by the Council of Trent. His greatest works include: The Calling of St Matthew (1600), The Martyrdom of St Matthew (1600), Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), Supper at Emmaus (1602), The Entombment of Christ (1601-3), The Crucifixion of St Peter (1601), and The Death of the Virgin (1601-6). His dramatic use of light and shadow was continued after his death by followers of so-called caravaggism.
Spain is the only European state to have emerged from a religious struggle between Christianity and Islam (Muslim rule over most of the Iberian peninsula lasted 718-1492). Not surprisingly therefore, the school of Spanish Painting produced a form of Christian art which was consistent with the country's uncompromising devotion to the Catholic cause. Its greatest exponent was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. After training in Byzantine icon painting he worked in Venice before making his home in Spain. Here he created a series of ecstatic portraits of Christ and the Saints, whose intensity of expression appealed directly to the spiritual feelings of the spectator. These powerful holy paintings, with their elongated figures, distorted perspective and non-natural colour schemes made El Greco the father of Counter-Reformation art in Spain. His most famous Catholic paintings include: The Trinity (1577-9); The Disrobing of Christ (1579); The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586); Christ driving the Traders from the Temple (1600); the Resurrection (1600), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608). Although they had none of Caravaggio's naturalism, these pictures were spiritual masterpieces, and thus wholly in line with the doctrinal requirements of the Vatican. Christian Canvas Art The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month. Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ... Christian Canvas Art The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? So now send me a man skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to be with the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided.
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 Gifts The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. ... Christian Wall Art
The Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation to fight for the hearts and minds of those Christians who had 'gone over' to Protestantism. To this end, the Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) - founded by S. Ignatius Loyola and commonly known as the Jesuits - was formally established in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as an important teaching body and missionary order. Jesuit art was suitably inspirational. First, the architect Giacomo Barozzi (Vignola) was commissioned to design a church for the new order - The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Il Gesu) (1568-73) - for which the Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Gaulli painted the fabulous trompe l'oeil ceiling frescoes. Another Jesuit church, the San Ignazio, was the setting for what is arguably the greatest example of quadratura painting ever created - The Triumph and Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola (1691-4) by Andrea Pozzo. There exists no greater exemplar of Counter-Reformation painting, and no better example of the differences between Protestant and Catholic art. Christian Wall Art