Once upon a time, the story of Christmas wasn’t told through storybooks. Rather, artists like El Greco and Caravaggio, created Christmas paintings, sculptures and other works of art to pass on the story of the season to religious followers.
Throughout the centuries, only a select few could read. Because of this, church leaders relied on artists to convey the stories of the Bible to parishioners. Truly, the history of drawing is the history of writing.
But just because a majority of the people in the world can now read doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy these works of art. They were made by some of the most amazing artists in history.
True enough, we can learn a bit about the history of the world by looking at these paintings, but we can also just learn to appreciate the beauty of the season when we look at them.
In light of that, we wanted to share the beauty of these paintings in the season in which they were meant to be celebrated. Here are five of the most famous Christmas paintings in the history of art.
Photo caption: “Adoration of the Shepherds” by El Greco. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
This Christmas painting by artist El Greco (The Greek) celebrates the story of the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus after he was born. The artist painted the scene in 1614, the last year of his life. It is painted in the artist’s signature style, which includes elongated limbs and dramatic lighting.
Photo caption: “The Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Thought to be Leonardo da Vinci’s masterwork, “The Annunciation” tells the story of the Angel Gabriel, who told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. Da Vinci took the story from the Book of Luke in the Bible. It is thought that da Vinci painted the work sometime between the years 1472 and 1475 while he was still under the tutelage of his master, Andrea del Verrocchio. Da Vinci painted it with oil and tempera on panel.
Photo caption: “Snow Scene at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Not all Christmas paintings are religious in nature. Rather, they celebrate the elements that people have come to associated with the Christmas season. In this case, Claude Monet’s painting “Snow Scene at Argenteuil” takes us to a snowy day in France long ago. Monet’s brush strokes and choice of colors capture the fleeting nature of both the light and the snow of the Christmas season.
Photo caption: “The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
In 1512, Pope Julies II commissioned the “The Sistine Madonna.” The painting counts as one of Raphael’s last paintings. It is an oil painting on canvas and was meant to be an altarpiece to honor Pope Julius II’s uncle, Pope Sixtus IV.
Photo caption: “Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence” by Caravaggio. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Caravaggio’s painting, “Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence,” which was painted in 1600, happens to also be one of art history’s great mysteries. It was stolen from Palermo, Italy’s Oratory of Saint Lawrence in 1969. The painting features not only the Christ child, but also the saints Lawrence and Francis of Assisi. The theft of this Christmas painting is considered one of the top art crimes in history by the FBI.
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