The Greatest Christian Paintings From Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo

Since men could express themselves through art, they've continuously done so by exploring themes ranging from love to hate, personal experiences, and religious beliefs. The most famous religious paintings are those that depict significant biblical events. 

The Greatest Christian Paintings From Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo

These Christian paintings are held in high regard today, from Michaelangelo to Leonardo da Vinci. This article will look at five famous biblical paintings and their interpretation. 

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1669) by Rembrandt van Rijn

Based on the story of the prodigal son from the Bible, Rijn's The Prodigal Son portrays the return of a wasteful son back to his father. In the famous story, the father had two sons. 

One was studious and did his job exactly as told. The other felt he wanted his inheritance now, so he asked his fatther for his share, and his father obliged. The son left with his new wealth, squandered it and became poor. 

During his stay in a pig's habitat, he realized he could return home. But, on getting close, his father saw him and ordered the servants to kill the fattest calf and throw a party. 

This painting by Rembrandt van Rijn illustrates the moment the father welcomed his son. It showed the father and his guests wearing clothes of luxury and the prodigal son in rags. 

Rijn uses lighting and colors to show the stark contrast between the life he left behind and the one he had lived. The idea of having the son on his knees and the father standing before him with his hands on his shoulder shows a sign of forgiveness and acceptance. 

The Last Judgment (1541) – Michaelangelo Buonarroti

While The Creation of Adam fresco was painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment is on the altar wall in the same chapel. It depicts the second coming of Jesus Christ in the future and is one of the most influential Christian paintings

It illustrates Jesus coming back to earth to judge all men for their actions, good and bad. Michelangelo painted Jesus in the center as the central figure, surrounded by the saints. Below that section is the resurrection of the dead and the descent of the damned into hell. 

Although it was a skillful and famous Christian painting, it aroused controversy within the Christian community. It was said that the artist didn't use only Christian figures and that he included pagan mythology in the painting. In addition, the church criticized him for prioritizing artistic aesthetics over being scripturally accurate. 

The Last Supper (1498) by Leonardo Davinci 

If you remember the Monalisa painting, you'll remember that Leonardo da Vinci painted a beautiful work of art. The Last Supper is also one of his best works. 

It isn't just a painting of a group of men having dinner together. Instead, it was inspired by Jesus Christ of Nazareth's last meal with his disciples before he was arrested, flogged, humiliated, and sentenced to death by hanging on a cross. 

During the last supper, Jesus revealed that one of them would betray him to the authorities. There was immediate rancor with each disciple trying to figure out who it was by asking each other and their master, Jesus. It was this chaos at supper that Leonardo captured in this painting.

Leonardo took us into the room where they had supper and used his expert knowledge of light, anatomy, composition, and his interest in human behavior when digesting negative information. He showed each expression as some registered shock, fear, and wonder. 

Some art critics believe that the figure standing to the right of Jesus was Mary Magdalene, not Jesus. This theory served as part of the fictional story in a novel by Dan Brown titled the DaVinci code. 

The Creation of Adam (1512) by Michaelangelo Buonarroti

It's a painted mural, a most famous fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. But, of course, you dare not discuss famous religious paintings without acknowledging Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. 

The image of the never-quite-touching hands of God and Adam has become an epitome symbolizing God breathing life into man. 

It's no surprise that this painting has severally been replicated, alluded to, and used in various art forms such as fiction writing, music, and film productions.  

It depicts the creation story in the bible, specifically, the book of Genesis. According to the story, God made Adam from clay in his image and likeness, and once he had formed, God breathed life into Adam. 

In the upper right, Michaelangelo illustrates God as an elderly, Caucasian white-bearded man. He's wrapped in white swirling clothes and is reaching down towards Adam with a finger. 

In the lower left is Adam lounging completely nude. He's also reaching up towards God with his finger, but they never come in contact. Furthermore, you'll notice the figures behind God form an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain. The red cloth behind God is also shaped like a human uterus. 

The green scarf extending out of the composition is thought to be a newly cut umbilical cord. And that it was cut at the birth of man, the new being.

Transfiguration (1520) – Raphael

This is another religious painting created in the last lap of the artist's life. Transfiguration was Raphael's final painting before his death. 

In terms of composition, Raphael divided The Transfiguration into two parts. At the bottom part, Christ's apostles are attempting to conduct a deliverance to free a boy from demonic possession. 

At the top is Jesus Christ, flanked by Moses and Elijah. He's the one who steps in to free the boy from demonic possession. Close inspection illustrates the difference between man's effort and God's. While man struggles on earth to solve their problems, Christ above easily saves man from their peril. 


These are just five of the famous religious paintings available within art history. They represent man's attempt at making sense of faith and expressing how they feel about Christian events. Without a doubt, they're beautiful and inspire awe in all who gaze upon them.