Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, is a Christian festival and cultural holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
According to the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus took place on the third day after he was laid to rest following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary around the year 30 AD. Easter is also known as Easter Sunday.
It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus Christ, which was preceded by a season of fasting, prayer, and penance for a total of forty days known as Lent (or Great Lent).
Below are some of the most famous paintings about Easter that have ever been produced.
Famous Easter Paintings
1. The Entombment of Christ – Caravaggio
Caravaggio was commissioned to paint “The Entombment of Christ” between 1603 and 1604 for the second chapel on the right side of Santa Maria in Vallicella. For the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, this building was erected.
There is widespread consensus that it is among the most revered altarpieces ever made.
A replica of the painting, the original of which is housed in the Vatican’s Pinacoteca, is currently on view in the chapel. Its influence can be seen in the works of other artists such as Rubens, Fragonard, Géricault, and Cézanne.
The painting was sent to France in 1797 for the purpose of being displayed in the Musée Napoléon in Paris. It wasn’t until 1816 that the artwork made its way to Rome, where it was subsequently shown in the Vatican.
2. The Resurrection – Piero della Francesca
The Resurrection, a fresco by Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, was completed in the 1460s for the Palazzo della Residenza in the town of Sansepolcro, Tuscany, Italy.
The Conservatori, or chief magistrates and governors, prayed before the picture before beginning their councils at the Gothic-style Residenza, where Piero was commissioned to paint the fresco.
Also Read: Famous Resurrection Paintings
The painting, which is prominently displayed on the inner wall opposite the entry, alludes to the origin of the city’s name (which means “Holy Sepulchre”): the presence, in the 9th century, of two relics of the Holy Sepulchre transported by two pilgrims.
The town’s coat of arms features Christ as shown by Piero.
3. The Denial of Saint Peter – Caravaggio
Painter Caravaggio of Italy completed The Denial of Saint Peter (La Negazione di Pietro) in about 1610. It shows Peter making up lies to save himself following Jesus’ arrest. The picture is on display in New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is widely accepted that Caravaggio’s last two paintings were The Denial of Saint Peter and The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. It was likely completed in the summer of 1610 in Naples. Stylistic and compositional considerations, in particular in relation to the Saint Ursula, support this dating.
Assailants attacked Caravaggio in the Osteria del Cerriglio bar in Naples in October 1609. The broad strokes and lack of focus in his artwork suggest he never got over the trauma of the incident.
Like the Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (Banca di Napoli), which suggests that the painting is from around the same time period, this one too depicts a saint’s death. To hide any unflattering human anatomy, Caravaggio crops his figures closely and smothers enormous portions in shade.
4. Agony in the Garden – El Greco
Agony in the Garden is an oil on canvas painting that dates back to 1590 and was created by El Greco or his studio. It was created during El Greco’s second visit in Toledo and displays the significant effect that Titian had on El Greco’s art. It can currently be shown in the Toledo Art Museum, which is located in Toledo, Ohio.
Christ is standing in the left foreground when he is suddenly confronted by an angel who is holding a chalice in his hand. In the background to the right, Judas and a troop of soldiers are making their way toward Christ in order to apprehend him while trekking over a barren and arid landscape.
5. Christ Crucified – Diego Velázquez
In 1632, Spanish artist Diego Velazquez created the iconic image of Christ on the Cross.
Although Diego Velazquez worked on a few religious paintings for the then-king of Spain, Philip IV, this is one of his most well-known secular works.
When compared to other works by the same artist from the same time period, this one depicts the crucifixion of Jesus in a very restrained manner.
Also Read: Famous Crucifixion Paintings
During his time in Rome, Velazquez created a number of nude studies that he would later include into paintings like Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan and Joseph’s Tunic.
Christ on the cross, on the other hand, is depicted in a more simpler, more somber, and reverent manner.
There is nothing but a near-life-size nude portrait staring back at the viewer from the canvas.
After returning to Spain from Italy in 1631, the painting is generally accepted to have been completed there, despite the presence of preliminary sittings with real models.
They have it on display in the Museo del Prado in Madrid right now.
6. Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary – Raphael
A painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael, Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary (also known as Lo Spasimo or Il Spasimo di Sicilia), dates to around 1514–1516 and is currently housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. It’s a pivotal piece in the evolution of his style.
The Swoon of the Virgin, also known as “Lo Spasimo,” depicts the moment of Christ’s fall while carrying the Cross on the way to his crucifixion.
The foreground is packed with action, while the background looks like a stage set, with faraway crowds of people and crosses.
The left-foreground man is reminiscent of a reversed version of a figure in Raphael’s The Judgement of Solomon, which may be seen in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Palace. For a split second, Simon of Cyrene takes Christ’s cross from the ground and glares furiously at the guards.
Each of the four Marys may be seen on the right side of the artwork, with the guards standing tall on either side of the central scene.
7. The Crowning with Thorns – Caravaggio
The Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted The Crowning with Thorns. It was created sometime between 1602 and 1604, or possibly 1607, and is currently on display at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.
It was not brought to Vienna until 1816, having been purchased in Rome in 1809 by Imperial ambassador Baron Ludwig von Lebzelter.
Caravaggio’s historian Giovanni Bellori claims that the picture Crowning with Thorns was created for the patron Vincenzo Giustiniani, and the painting has been clearly linked to the Giustiniani collection.
However, Peter Robb places it in 1607, when Caravaggio was in Naples, therefore an attribution to Giustiniani would put it before 1606 when Caravaggio evacuated Rome.
The painting shows Jesus being mocked for his authority by having a crown of thorns imposed on his head right before he was crucified.
The Belvedere Torso served as inspiration for Michelangelo’s distorted depiction of Christ’s torso. The artwork was intended to be displayed over a doorway, hence the name “supraporte.”
8. The Procession to Calvary – Pieter Bruegel the Elder
In 1564, Dutch Renaissance master Pieter Bruegel the Elder created The Procession to Calvary, an oil on panel depicting Christ carrying the Cross through a vast landscape. It can be found in Vienna, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
As far as we know, this is Bruegel’s second-largest picture. This picture is one of sixteen by him included in the 1566 inventory of the affluent Antwerp collector Niclaes Jonghelinck.
This is a remarkably conventional composition for Bruegel. Perhaps due to the gravity of the religious occasion he was depicting, Bruegel relied on a tried-and-true compositional device previously employed by the Brunswick Monogrammis and Bruegel’s contemporary in Antwerp, Pieter Aertsen.
Both the artificial placement of Mary and her companions in a rocky foreground, which is deliberately distanced from the dramatic events taking place behind them, and the tendency to make Christ look insignificant among the crowds are common devices of mannerist painting (seen, for example, in the Preaching of John the Baptist and The Conversion of Paul).
9. The Descent from the Cross – Rogier van der Weyden
Panel painting by Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden titled The Descent from the Cross (also known as The Deposition of Christ or The Descent of Christ from the Cross), completed around 1435 and now housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
As Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus carry Christ’s lifeless corpse down from the cross, he is crucified.
This was van der Weyden’s deliberate endeavour to make a masterpiece that would catapult his name to new heights over the world.
According to art historians, this picture was one of the most important depictions of Christ’s crucifixion in the Netherlands, inspiring numerous imitations and adaptations in the two centuries after its creation.
Critics have weighed in on van der Weyden’s painting, noting its subtly rendered space and the emotional impact of the sobbing mourners wailing over Christ’s body.
10. Christ and Mary Magdalene(Noli me tangere) – Titian
Titian’s painting titled “Noli me tangere,” which translates from Latin as “Don’t touch me” or “Stop touching me,” depicts the Noli me tangere story from the Gospel of St. John around the year 1514.
The picture, which was done in oil on canvas and depicts Jesus and Mary Magdalene shortly after his resurrection, has been in the collection of the National Gallery in London since the nineteenth century.