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
Once Christianity was legally permitted, its need for religious art increased rapidly. New churches were built as centres of worship, using the architectural design of the basic Roman Basilica (used for civic administration and justice). A typical basilica church had a central nave with one or more aisles on either side and a semi-circular/polygonal apse at one end, covered by a semi-dome or sectional vault; the apse became the presbytery and contained a raised platform, upon which sat the bishop, his priests, and also the altar. Baptisteries were also designed and built for various rites, notably baptism followed by annointing-with-oil, as non-baptized people could not enter the Christian Basilica. Most interior decoration of these new religious buildings was done with mosaics, although mural paintings have also been uncovered. The sculptural decoration of sarcophagi became more intricate, often illustrating numerous scenes from the bible. But almost no sculpture in the round was made, for fear of creating pagan-style idols. Relief sculpture was therefore standard, mostly in stone although ivory carving was another popular medium. Overall, the 4th century witnessed more art, the use of richer materials, and the development of precise narrative sequences, as in the mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and the later 5th century churches of Ravenna. In addition, during the 5th century, Christian imagery began to accord greater importance to religious significance than to realism. Thus realistic perspective, proportions, colour and light were downgraded in favour of standardized conventions and symbols, when portraying Biblical figures and events. Scripture Art
Only one major innovative example of Christian church architecture was built in Europe during the 19th century - the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (1883), designed in a highly decorative neo-Gothic style by Antoni Gaudi. Celebrating the Holy Family and the mysteries of the Catholic faith, this extraordinary church with its tree-like formation of vaulted structures includes five towers and twelve campaniles. Made of stone and concrete, the building is embellished in parts with ceramic tiles, pompom finials and numerous sculptures, but is still not completely finished. Gaudi himself was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and was associated with the Catalan Modernista school. Christian Canvas Art
Christian art of the 14th century, the pre-Renaissance era, was dominated by Giotto - see the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel Frescoes (c.1303-10) - and Duccio de Buoninsegna (1255-1318) - see the celebrated polyptych for Siena Cathedral, known as the Maesta Altarpiece (1308-11). After this came the Early Renaissance in Florence, exemplified by the city's duomo - for more, see: Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi and the Renaissance (1420-36) - Masaccio (Brancacci Chapel frescoes) and Donatello (statue of David). If 15th century Christian art was dominated by Florence, the centre of 16th century Christian art was Rome, where the greatest patrons were Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84), Pope Julius II (1503-13), Pope Leo X (1513-21) and Pope Paul III (1534-49). Scripture Art
×