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11 Famous Paintings of Jesus – Jesus Christ & the Biblical Stories

Famous Paintings of Jesus

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci & Transfiguration by Raphael | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

Renaissance, an artistic period that carried attempts to restore traditional European art and regain the old values spoiled by the fancy Gothic period, is often mistaken as a succession. Though Renaissance’s foundation was to find what was gone, the people of this period were intellects who invented something never seen before. These inventions contributed immensely to art, architecture, sculpture, philosophy, music, literature and sciences. If not for this period, it would have taken humans too long to design the ideal dome, translate Aristotle’s texts, study different phenomena of nature or invent the compound microscope. Though the inventions expand to uncalculated boundaries, today, as we speak of the past, one of the fragments that tied together all the bits and presented them to us for learning and admiration of our ancestral knowledge is the period’s surviving artworks. One of the crucial things to understand is that it was during this period that we have a succession of art periods and movements. And all the paintings we see as successful have the foundations of the Renaissance. However, most of the paintings which blew out hearts belong to the religious category. And so today, I am here to provide you with a list of 11 famous paintings of Jesus to celebrate this excellent craftsmanship, belonging to different periods. So, let us get started.

Famous Paintings of Jesus to Know About.

1. Deposition of Christ by Fra Angelico.

ArtistFra Angelico
Year PaintedAround 1432
GenreReligious Historical Painting
PeriodEarly Renaissance
MediumTempera and gold on the panel
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?National Museum of San Marco, Florence

The painting has some elements from Umbrian Art, not bounding to the technical affinity. It has a lucidity, charm and accuracy of colours, which the Umbrian art specialises on. Fra Angelico is renowned for his meticulous detail renderings, similar to those found in miniatures, but in larger scales. It is evident from the lucidity of the design, the grace of ornamental motives, and the almost exaggerated minuteness of execution that Fra Angelico received an excellent education in the arts. One of the significant things which you must understand is that a study of the verdant country never occupied his attention; in his paintings, the landscape is either an insignificant accessory, or if it occupies a large proportion of the picture, as in the Florentine Gallery’s Deposition from the Cross, it demonstrates that it isn’t a special study or personal impression, nor is it a reflection of love for the place. As a matter of fact, it does not attract or interest the observer in any way. It may be because it was his inner life of the spirit which he lived with such intensity that he vividly transfused his energy and spirituality into the figures of Saints and abstracted from the surroundings. In essence, Giottesque principles require that the background be made as intelligible as possible without any additional research or pretension, to which Fra Angelico was faithful. We see these principles in this famous painting of Jesus also.

Deposition of Christ by Fra Angelico | Source: Lorenzo Monaco, via Wikimedia Commons

The Deposition of Christ or Deposition from the Cross is one of the panels, which Fra Angelico painted for the Florentine church. It has such intensity of sentiments and sincerity of expression that it becomes one of the famous paintings of Jesus. Vasari writes,

“Having rendered the name of Fra Giovanni illustrious throughout all Italy, he was invited to Rome by Pope Nicholas V, who caused him to adorn the chapel of the palace, where the pontiff is accustomed to hearing mass, with a Deposition from the Cross and with the certain events from the life of San Lorenzo, which are admirable.”

2. The Man of Sorrows by Sandro Botticelli.

ArtistSandro Botticelli
Year Painted1500 (probably)
GenreReligious Painting
MediumTempera and oil on panel
PriceUS $45.4 million (last sold)
Where is it housed?Private

The paintings have deep roots in the time when the stylistic departure of the Man of Sorrows was affected by the shifting political and religious climate in Florence. In 1494, when Florence was invaded by Foreign armies and the Medici family was expelled, the Dominican Friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98) took charge. Before the San Marco, convent though, favoured by the Medici, Savonarola, a charismatic preacher, railed against the sin and iniquity of the people and became a religious dictator. He declared Florence a new Jerusalem, where he instigated the Bonfire of the Vanities, where every citizen was to burn the luxury objects, clothing and paintings considered idolatrous. Giorgio Vasari notes that Botticelli himself was so much affected by these philosophies that he consigned several numbers of his own paintings. However, in Signoria, Savonarola was ultimately arrested and made him confess that he was a false prophet, following 28 May 1498, he was hanged and burnt as a heretic in the Piazza dell Signoria. Even though he was a false prophet, his influence and teachings had a direct impact on Botticelli’s art. Accordingly, Botticelli’s Man of Sorrows depicts Christ overcoming death and rising from the dead while emphasising Savonarola’s message of returning to basic Christian duties.

The Man of Sorrows by Sandro Botticelli | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

The famous painting of Jesus, Man of Sorrows, has the most distinctive features as there is the presence of a strict frontal presentation of Jesus with the halo of angels holding the instruments with a painting technique, en grisaille, where there is an execution of an image in entirely different shades of grey, severely modelled to show the illusion of sculpture. With the eyes of Jesus, there is grief for his sufferings. When one looks closely, he sees the head and torso of Christ, with his wounded hands crossing over his chest and the contemplation of his sacrifice. Botticelli didn’t fail to showcase the dual nature of Christ- humanity and divinity with an excellent touch of psychological depth. Though the painting is still under research as there is yet to learn about it, one recent analysis showed that it showed the portrayal of Madonna and Child hidden beneath the paint layers.

3. Transfiguration by Raphael.

Year Painted1520
GenreReligious Historical Painting
MediumOil tempera on wood
PriceNot for Sale
Where is it housed?Rome, Vatican Pinacoteca

The story began in June 1517 when the ambassadors began the long stream of letters to assure the Duke that Raphael would soon start the commission when his current work would be completed for the Pope. The current work included finishing the Stanza dell’Incendio, planning and decorating the Loggie, and various architectural and archaeological projects. The Ferrarese panels were in no progress. So the letters in December 1517 and throughout spring 1518 continued the theme that Leo monopolized Raphael’s time to the detriment of other clients. Following all these, there was a letter in July 1518 in which Sebastino del Piombo wrote to Michelangelo that the painting Transfiguration, commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’Medici in 1516, was still not even begun. It was only in late 1518 that he started to work on the painting, to which he dedicated his all. After he completed the painting in 1520, he died due to a brief illness on Good Friday, making it his last and the most memorable painting of the century. 

Transfiguration by Raphael | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

As part of the development of Raphael’s ideas for the Transfiguration, Konrad Oberhuber carefully worked out the studio copies after Raphael’s drawings. Originally, Raphael depicted Christ on the ground flanked by Moses and Elijah, the apostles Peter, John, and James below, and God the Father enthroned above. A number of significant alterations have been made to the second stage: the story of the possessed boy, which follows the Transfiguration in the Bible, now occupies the lower half of the picture, and God the Father no longer appears. Although Christ is still on earth, the apostles recall his splendour and two observers are kneeling in prayer to his left. In the drapery and figure style of this modello by Penni, Oberhuber dates it to around 1518, based on the influence of the Loggie designs. Raphael made sure that there was an explosion of radiance in Christ with the mystical significance surrounding the event in the Bible. Further, the Transfiguration energy lifts the garments of the two Old Testament prophets. As opposed to earlier paintings of the subject, Raphael portrays the apostles doing more than simply recoiling; rather, they shield their eyes against the blinding light, as if they are experiencing a supernatural vision rather than merely witnessing it.

4. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci.

ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Year Paintedcirca 1500
GenreReligious Portrait
MediumOil on panel
PriceUS $450K
Where is it housed?Private

Amongst all the famous paintings of Jesus, Salvator Mundi offers the viewer a shifting emotional interaction, as if the Holy Christ sees through you. There is a psychological mystery about the misty aura and the blurred sfumato lines, especially on the lips, that produce an ambiguous smile that changes with every glance. 

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

When Leonardo was painting Salvator Mundi, he was doing his optic studies and explored how the eye focuses. In other words, he knew how to sharpen the objects in the foreground in an artwork to create the illusion of three-dimensional depth. The two fingers on Christ’s right hand are just close and next to us, with a crispier delineation. It gives a motion to the entire painting as if he is popping out a blessing for all of us. We see that in later years, Leonardo used this same technique to depict the finger in such an amusing way, The Vinci’s Way in the Saint John the Baptist. The entire painting is a marvel of optical illusion, spell bounding colours and perfect lines.

5. The Last Judgement by Michelangelo.

Year Painted1536-41
GenreReligious Historical Painting
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Sistine Chapel

It is believed that Pope Julius II conceived the idea of depicting the resurrection of Christ on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome to enhance the overall theme of the creation and downfall of man. A fire damaged the altarpiece by Pietro Perugino, forcing the plans for the altar wall to be rediscovered. As Pope Paul III’s chief painter, sculptor, and architect, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the fresco in 1534. In the meantime, Michelangelo was working on his doomed Tomb of Pope Julius II, but Paul III intervened, urging him to work on his projects instead. 

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

Hence, Michelangelo began the making of the Last Judgement, one of the most famous paintings of Jesus, on the altar wall, which was 40ft wide and 45ft high. The fresco became the biggest undivided work of art to be undertaken by a single individual. It does not show Christ in a gentle way or with suffering but rather shows the dominance of God in an intriguing manner. Throughout his work, Michelangelo shows Jesus as if this were the last day of the world, and he radiates a powerful energy that embodies the idea of a vengeful God. In the form of a muscular, beardless young man, Jesus came back to Earth to pronounce judgement on humanity. As the artist puts the Christ centrally, near the top of the painting, with a circular movement in the piece revolving around him, there is a dense ring of figures surrounding him. The entire artwork shows that there is the day of the last judgement.

6. Christ Blessing by Giovanni Bellini.

ArtistGiovanna Bellini
Year Paintedc. 1500
GenreReligious Portraiture
MediumTempera, oil, and gold on panel
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Kimbell Art Museum

In his Christ Blessing, Bellini illustrates the mystery of the Christian faith: the incarnation of Christ, when he became human and divine and was sent to earth to redeem humanity. As the Resurrected Savior faces the worshiper with a level gaze, the devotional image is brought closer to the picture plane. A white flag with a red cross, symbolizing Christ’s triumph over death, is out of sight as he raises his right hand in blessing. He grips the red banner staff with his left hand. In order to indicate his divinity, golden light emanates from his head’s top and sides. His wounds of suffering, which are lightly visible on his hand and chest, convey a message of Christian compassion, while the shadow cast by his raised arm confirms the Resurrection’s reality.

Christ Blessing by Giovanni Bellini | Source: via Wikimedia Commons

There are several motifs in the distant landscape that allude to the theme of the Resurrection. The withered tree with a solitary bird on the left of the panel is probably symbolic of the Old Covenant, out of which the New Covenant will grow. The rabbit pair symbolically represents regeneration, while the shepherd tending his flock symbolizes Christ, himself, who is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14). In the right edge of the picture, three women are dressed in robes, hurrying to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty. Above them, the distant bell tower denotes that salvation is found through Christ’s sacrifice and the Church.

7. Crucifixion by Titian.

Year Painted1558
GenreReligious Historical Painting
MediumOil on canvas
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Ancona, Musea Civico, formerly in the Church of San Domenico

As if to express the anguished despair of the Virgin, Christ nailed to the Cross appears on the altar of the Church of San Domenico in Ancona in the murky twilight of 22 July 1558, while Saint John spreads his arms in a gesture of wretched incredulity and Saint Dominic clings to the Cross in unutterable grief. In the Escorial version, the image of this divine mystery is even more despairing: the solitary Cross stands over a barren landscape, shuddering with mystery as night falls.

Crucifixion by Titian | Source: via Wikimedia Commons

The painting was commissioned by the Cornovi family, who moved from Venice to Ancona. In the artwork, there is the placement of the three mourners in the immediate foreground, Saint John, Saint Dominic and Mary, in such a way that offers to share their sufferings with the viewers. And the way to generate emotional sentiment and share it with the viewer makes this painting the first masterpiece of Counter-Reformation art, where the priorities in the artwork are narrative clarity and emotional empathy. Among the sacred works, the Crucifixion not only became a bridge of feelings but also one of the most famous paintings of Jesus to date.

8. The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio.

ArtistMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Year Painted1599
GenreHistorical Painting
PeriodItalian Baroque Period
MediumOil on canvas
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

The Calling of St Matthew is based on a biblical story explaining,

“And when Jesus passed on from hence, he saw a man sitting in the custom-house named Matthew; and he saith to him: follow me. And he rose up and followed him.”

The painting is famous for its rich symbolism, extraordinary colours, detailed chiaroscuro technique and illustration weighing the effect of the biblical story.

The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

The painting, Calling of Saint Matthew, was the first public commission of Caravaggio, and he painted Martyrdom of Matthew simultaneously for the chapel belonging to the heirs of the French cardinal, Matthew Cointrel. The structure was the fifth and last one. The contract for the commission was signed on 23 July 1599 for the amount of 400 scudi for both the paintings, Calling of St. Matthew and Martyrdom of St. Matthew. Caravaggio started his paintings in the summer of 1599 and completed them in the same year. One of the exciting facts to know about the painting is that the walls on which it was to paint were close to three and a half meters wide and some ten feet high. And surprisingly, Caravaggio never painted such a big painting, so it was the first time that he painted bigger composition with such perfection. Note that I already did a comprehensive analysis of the artwork, Calling of Saint Matthew. You can read it here.

9. The Elevation of the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens.

ArtistPeter Paul Rubens
Year Painted1610
GenreReligious Historical Painting
PeriodBaroque Period
MediumOil on panel
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

The Elevation of the Cross is a painting which declares the strenuous complexity of Rubens’s art. Based on the realist Flemish techniques, Peter Paul, inspired by Van Eyck and Brueghel and the Battle of Aghineri by Leonardo, travelled to Italy in the 1600s at the age of twenty-three. And after years of exploration and learning Renaissance art through museums, in 1609, when he returned, he painted The Adoration of the Magi, the Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross.

The Elevation of the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

The Elevation of the Cross painting devotes the immense sufferings of Christ, capturing his eventual ascension and his aftermath of death.

The painting is explained from the Matthew [27:1-54] version, and you can refer to the entire verse. The artwork includes three large panels to depict the scene. The first panel includes the presence of Mother Mary and St. John in darker Robes with few women in misery. Secondly, the right wing shows a group of Roman soldiers with a bearded officer seated on a dappled horse in a darker enviornment. And finally, the central panel shows the scene where a few bearded muscular men lift up the cross with Christ. The painting is a fusion of complex muscular movements, dramatic twists, diagonal movements, and catastrophic lightning sharks. For the entire painting analysis, you can refer to my to this read.

10. Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali.

ArtistSalvador Dali
Year Painted1951
GenreReligious Painting
MediumOil on canvas
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Glasgow Museum, London

The story starts from the awful scope of World War II when Dali set a new course for his artworks and personal life. And he increasingly became reliable to the power of faith, religion and to Catholic Church in general. And so in the 1940s, we see more of his works as taking a role of mysticism and personal life. Since Dali believed that mysticism was a type of surrealist expression, which is more about the unconscious mind, his artworks completely changed. 

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali | Source: MutualArt

As the artist turned more to the Catholic Church, in 1949, Dali made his first two trips to Rome to see Pope Pius XII. Hence, he studied religious art closely and reconnected with Spanish artists such as Velazquez and Zurbaran, who painted religious subjects in the seventeenth century. And all these influences led him to draw more towards the realm of spirituality, and his paintings soon included religious subjects, including Christ’s crucifixion. Finally, in 1951, he painted technically the stunning Christ of St John on the Cross.

At the bottom of his studies for Christ, Dali wrote,

“In the first place, in 19150, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered in ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ! In the second place, when, thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which aesthetically summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle.”

11. The Tribute Money by Masaccio.

Year Paintedc. 1425
GenreHistorical Religious Painting
PriceNot on sale
Where is it housed?Brancacci Chapel

The Fresco of the Brancacci Chapel, The Tribute Money, is one of the most crucial and famous paintings of Jesus. Painted by Masaccio in c. 1425, it depicts the arrival of Jesus and the Apostles in Capernaum, a description given in the account in Matthew’s Gospel (17: 24-27). However, Masaccio painted three of the moments from the stories together.

The Tribute Money by Masaccio | Source: via Wikimedia Commons

Starting with the central subject: it portrays a tax collector’s request with an immediate response by Jesus to Saint Peter on how to find money. On the left side, following the story: it depicts Saint Peter catching the fish for paying his and Jesus’ taxes. Lastly, on the right: it showcases Saint Peter visiting the Tax Collector’s house and paying tax.

One of the fascinating stories that Scholars claim with this painting is that the painting’s stress towards the legitimacy of the Tax collector’s request is associated with the lively controversy in Florence at the time on the proposed Tax Reform. This situation came to peace in 1427 with the institution of the Catasto, an official tax register for a fairer taxation system. Additionally, Scholars also claim that the actions of Saint Peter represent the strategy of Pope Martin V, aiming to reconfirm the supremacy of the Church, and the coin found in the Lake of Gennesaret indicated Florentine maritime concern promoted by the activity of the city’s maritime Consul, Brancacci. Lastly, Masaccio might have referenced that the Church must pay its Tribute with the money obtained from outside and not from its properties, a principle in Matthew’s Gospel.

Final Words.

Folks, we have finally seen the famous paintings of Jesus in this article. However, there are many more artworks dedicated to our loving Christ, but they are not well known. I am hoping that I cover some of them so that you see the other side of the artwork as well. For now, hit me in the comments, about which painting inspired you and why.


1. Fra Angelico by JB Supino.
2. Raphael by Leopold D. and Helen S. Ettlinger.
3. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacton.
4. Michelangelo by Kirsten Bradbury.
5. Titian, circa 1490-1576 by Ian G Kennedy.
6. Salvador Dali by Tim McNeese.
7. The Library of Great Masters Masaccio by Casazza Ornella.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the most famous Jesus picture?

Among all the paintings, the most famous Jesus paintings are Salvator Mundi and The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Despite this, there remain still many paintings, such as The Calling of St. Matthew, and Holy Trinity by Macchiato, which are widely spread and known as excellent works of art.

Who is famous for painting Jesus?

Two leading artists who formed several Jesus paintings are widely famous for them are Peter Paul Rubens and Leonardo da Vinci. Both of them, though, belongs to different period but have marvellous and superior quality in aerial perspective, body anatomy and expressions with chiaroscuro techniques.

Are there any original paintings of Jesus?

Yes, there are original paintings of Jesus that belong to the 2nd to 4th century and are primarily found in Roman catacombs. They include pictures of Jesus having supper, attending ceremonies, blessing, talking and doing good deeds.

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