Is there any Christian art you like in spite of it being religious?

I came one class shy of having a minor in art history, but that was oh-so long ago! Of course, when studying art history you cannot avoid studying religious art.

There are many artists that I can appreciate in spite of their work having a religious them, but there is one painting in particular that I really like: “Madonna of the Harpies” by Andrea del Sarto (pictured above).

I would not have any Christian art in my home, of course, but I feel completely different about Hindu religious art, especially sculpture. I would definitely have that in my home. I love depictions of Kali and Ganesha. They are quite beautiful.

The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is also a very incredible work of art, as is Michelangelo’s Pieta.

There are numerous St. Sebastian’s that are very nice, too, including:

St. Sebastian, by Guido Reni
St. Sebastian, by Mattia Preti
St. Sebastian, by François-Guillaume Menageot

Tags: Christian, Christianity, Madonna, Pieta, St. Sebastian, art, religion, religious art

Views: 26

Replies to This Discussion

I really don't see what the difference is between having a painting of the Madonna and having a statue of Ganesha from the perspective of an atheist.

Objectively, there is no difference. But I think it's a matter of culture: living in the Christian West, surrounded (so to speak) with Christian art, it can be difficult to remove the sacred and devotional aspects of such art and view it simply as an aesthetic object. Or at least remove enough of the sacred and devotional aspects of a piece that one is able to view it as an art-work.

A statue of Ganesh, though one can see that it is a sacred and devotional work, may not have the force that a statue of the Madonna might have for someone viewing it with Western eyes, despite one's atheism.
it can be difficult to remove the sacred and devotional aspects of such art and view it simply as an aesthetic object. Or at least remove enough of the sacred and devotional aspects of a piece that one is able to view it as an art-work.

Personally I never had a problem with that. For instance, I love sacred music and I'd gladly attend church services to sing with the choir if there was a decent choir to start with - and decent musical choices: alas, this tradition has been gone for centuries in France.
Wow, Stephen. I just couldn't have said that any better. I knew there was some good reason we kept you around! :)
One does what one can. :o)
I really don't see what the difference is between having a painting of the Madonna and having a statue of Ganesha from the perspective of an atheist.

For me, Christian art hits a little too close to home, as I was raised a Christian. But from an aesthetic/creative point of view, Hindu art is much more visually and thematically interesting to me.
Great art is among the finest human achievements and the fact that much of it has been inspired by belief in gods or mythologies that we don't believe in does not have to diminish our appreciation of these achievements as art. Bach's B minor mass, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Dante's Inferno are great works of art and magnificent human achievements, as are the Parthenon, the pyramids or the poems of Basho. While we should be aware of the cultural, religious and historical context of these works, we can appreciate them without having to participate in the world view that created them.
While we should be aware of the cultural, religious and historical context of these works, we can appreciate them without having to participate in the world view that created them.

Great response, Simon.
I will extend Simon's thought a little -- particularly since he used a couple of examples I was going to use.

To begin, I'm assuming that anything we're talking about here has already cleared the first hurdle: Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap. I further agree with some famous guy (Einstein) who said, "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration." This is no more obviously true than in the plastic arts. If we toss into the mix all of religion, not just Christianity, we still only have a relatively small number of masterpieces. Yes, we need to bear in mind what Stephen and Simon said but we can still appreciate the Sistine Chapel, The Last Supper, Michaelangelo's David, Mass in B Minor, Venus de Milo, Hildegaard von Bingen's vocal works, The Inferno, Native American dreamcatchers, Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, Basho, the Parthenon, the Book of Kells, etc.

Art is what artists do. Art is not what artists believe.
Yes, Caravaggio is nice--a very talented man. I did a paper once on his painting The Cardsharps, which is owned by the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, just next to Dallas.

I saw a movie about his life years ago, but I don't recall that much about it. I want to say it was by Derek Jarman.
I have always enjoyed the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, an atheist with substantial involvement in religious music.

If one enjoys the music or the arts that tell the story of a myth, why not enjoy the music or the arts inspired by the myth of christianity.

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