The spiritual intensity achieved by Spanish painters was also seen in the works of Spanish sculptors, such as Alonso Berruguete (c.1486-1561) the greatest of all Renaissance sculptors in Spain, whose masterpieces include: the altarpiece for the monastery of La Mejorada Valladolid (1526), and the choir stalls in Toledo Cathedral (1539-43); Juan de Juni (1507-1577), noted for his emotive expressiveness, as in his two groups of the Entombment of Christ (1544 and 1571). Juan Martinez Montanes (the "God of Wood"), famous for his wooden crucifixes and religious figures, like The Merciful Christ (1603) and the Santiponce Altarpiece (1613); and Alonso Cano (the "Spanish Michelangelo"), whose masterwork is The Immaculate Conception (1655). Scripture Art Architectural sculpture was another important feature. Column statues and reliefs of figures from the Old Testament, as well as depictions of Christ and other members of the Holy Family, were commonplace. Gothic sculpture developed in a series of small creative steps. First came an increased realism, visibly different from the rather wooden look of the Romanesque idiom; then we see more graceful figures with soft drapery; then figures with a solid, upright appearance, with more restrained gestures. Finally came figures with dainty postures and thick drapery hanging in long V-shaped folds. Among the greatest sculptors were Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278) and Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310). Scripture Art During the development of Christian art in the Byzantine Empire (see Byzantine art), a more abstract aesthetic replaced the naturalism previously established in Hellenistic art. This new style was hieratic, meaning its primary purpose was to convey religious meaning rather than accurately render objects and people. Realistic perspective, proportions, light and color were ignored in favor of geometric simplification of forms, reverse perspective and standardized conventions to portray individuals and events. The controversy over the use of graven images, the interpretation of the Second Commandment, and the crisis of Byzantine Iconoclasm led to a standardization of religious imagery within the Eastern Orthodoxy.
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 Canvas Art Protestantism taught a low-key, personal form of worship that focused on the direct relationship between God and man, without making a fuss about go-betweens like Popes, Bishops and other church employees. It also placed little or no importance on decorative or ceremonial aspects of religion. Because of all this, Protestant art favoured low-key moralistic depictions of ordinary day-to-day life, or simple narrative scenes from the Bible, rather than dramatic theological scenes involving the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. Other acceptable scenes included depictions of sinners forgiven by Christ, in line with the Protestant view that salvation is only possible through the grace of God. Protestant art also tended to be smaller-scale than Catholic art, reflecting a more modest, personal approach to religion. For the same reason, book illustration and prints became more popular, while Catholic paintings and sculptures became the object of physical iconclastic attacks, as exemplified by the beeldenstorm, an episode of mob destruction which broke out in 1556. But Protestant church authorities were equally aware of the power of art to educate and influence worshippers. As a result they made maximum use of various forms of printmaking, which allowed images to be made widely available to the public at a very low cost.
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). Scripture Art