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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Botticelli Primavera

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings 

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

Ghent Altarpiece via zoom

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums - ebooks

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces.

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Other

Art History Blogs

ArtDaily: daily breaking news about art museums and art history.

Art Blog by Bob: this brilliant art history blogger of Picture This on Big Think.

Art History Resources. Unwieldly but informative.

Marisol Roman.  A Spanish art history blog.

Mother of all Art & Art History Links: extensive list of online art history resources (including images, research resources, and art history depts.)

smARThistory. Think online art history textbook.  Brilliant. 

Art History Beyond Europe

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Famous Paintings Reviewed

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Can You Name the Five Most Famous Paintings?


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Which famous paintings have had the greatest impact on art history? And which famous painters, too? A tall (and subjective) order, for sure, but one that's approachable with a simple methodology.

Here's how: starting with major art history textbooks (those used in AP art history, college art history, and art appreciation courses) and "Best of" art books (like the late Thomas Hoving's Greatest Works of Art in Western 

leonardo mona lisa

Civilization), we recorded which famous paintings were discussed by this array of some forty art historians (in some 17,000 pages). We counted the "votes", or citations, for each famous artwork, beginning with Renaissance paintings and ending with early Pop art. And then we plucked out the 250 most-cited art paintings.

Curious which famous paintings were discussed, analyzed and assessed most often?

In third place, a tie among these five famous paintings:

  • Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa.  Louvre, Paris.

  • Pablo Picasso, Guernica.  Reina Sofia, Madrid.

  • Raphael, Philosophy (School of Athens), Vatican, Rome.

  • Jean-Antoine Watteau, Embarkation for Cythera. Louvre, Paris.

  • Matthias Gruenewald, The Isenheim Altar.  Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France.

These famous artworks received the second most citations:

  • Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884.  Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.  

  • Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor).  Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

Pablo Picasso Les DemoisellesAnd the painting that was most discussed by these luminaries of art history? Les Demoiselles by Pablo Picasso.  Indisputably one of the most famous paintings of the world, it may be seen at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  

Know an art history know-it-all? Let'em try to name these famous paintings!

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles.  Oil on canvas, 1907.  8' x 7' 8".  Museum of Modern Art, New York

Read and discover more about art history with Masterpiece Cards, art history cards of 250 famous paintings made between the Renaissance and 1960s.  Each art painting is both reviewed by an art historian (or two), who places the work in its historical and social context, and brilliantly reproduced, with art museum approved images. Discover Masterpiece Cards here!



Vincent van Gogh Paintings: "The Potato Eaters"


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

millais sowerDespite the fame of Vincent van Gogh paintings now, the early years of van Gogh (1853-1890) offered nary a hint of his future popularity.

Born in Groot-Zundert, Holland, the son of a Calvinist pastor, van Gogh dropped out of school in 1869 to work for an art dealer; he was fired seven years later. Van Gogh then spent two years as a lay preacher working with impoverished miners; he was denied ordination because he was considered "overly passionate" by Calvinist authorities. 

At the age of 27, van Gogh resolved to become an artist. 

Beginning at this juncture and for the rest of his life, Vincent van Gogh received emotional and financial support from his brother, Theo. This support 

Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower. Oil on canvas, 1850.  40" x 32.5".  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

included frequent letters between the two, providing not only insights into the specific intentions and contexts of van Gogh paintings, but also into Vincent's volatile mental health (Explore the complete collection of van Gogh letters written to, and received from, Theo, and letters Vincent van Gogh wrote to famous painters and friends like Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard).

From 1883 to 1885, van Gogh lived at his father's vicarage in Nuenen, Holland, where he created one of his most famous paintings, The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh was clearly influenced by the realistic art and peasant imagery of Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875), as he conveyed in a letter to Theo:

"While I was doing it I thought again about what has so rightly been said of Millet's peasants - ‘His peasants seem to have been painted with the soil they sow'". 

israeliz peasant familyVan Gogh also admired Jozef Israels, a painter of fishermen and peasants whom van Gogh described to Theo as the "Dutch Millet".

Jozef Israels, Peasant Family at Table.  Oil on canvas, 1882.  Approximately 28" x 41".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Between Millet's The Sower and Israels' Peasant Family at Table, van Gogh was motivated to create his own version of a peasants' meal.  

Compositionally, The Potato Eaters echoes Israels' work of art.  Van Gogh's painting, however, has darker hues, an impasto paint texture, and more influence from Rembrandt's tenebrism (a painting style employed by Caravaggio and followers in which a few objects are brightly lit while the majority are in heavy shadow).  

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters.  Oil on canvas, 1885.  Approximately 32" x 45".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Its perspective is askew - look how abruptly the ceiling beams recede - and reveals van Gogh's technical naivete.  And genius.

van gogh potato eaters



Perhaps this lack of experience permits his passion to exude (explore this in other van Gogh paintings, too). The peasants' gnarled hands and fingers evince severe arthritic pain, while the folds and wrinkles in their tattered clothing seem to restrain some unwieldy, internal force.  On the wall, the Crucifixion picture and clock seem poised to jump off the wall rather than remain attached. 

This explosive energy within this work of art is a heartfelt but unsentimental contrast to its solemnity and tranquility, in which these peasants have merely coffee and potatoes to eat after a physically taxing day.

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters.  Oil on canvas, 1885.  Approximately 32" x 45".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh was pleased with Potato Eaters, writing to Theo that contrast to a great many other paintings, it has rusticity and a certain life in it. And then, although it's done differently, in a different century from the old Dutchmen, Ostade, for instance, it's nevertheless out of the heart of peasant life and - original.

Van Gogh's painting career was tragically abbreviated by an unspecifiable mental illness; the physician who admitted him to a psychiatric hospital in 1888 noted that van Gogh had "acute mania with hallucinations of sight and hearing."  His failure to achieve financial stability was profoundly troubling - he sold only one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles, during his lifetime, according to some art historians; he had no patrons; and he was forced to remain financially dependent on Theo. 

While most art historians contend that van Gogh died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890 (in spite of having recently van Gogh Red Vineyard at Arlesreceived a postive review from the art critic Alberet Aurier), a new book, Van Gogh: The Life (Smith and Naifeh) claims van Gogh was shot by local teenagers. 

What is certain is that Vincent's impact on art history is incalcuabale: after one decade as a painter, he left 1000 van Gogh paintings,  of which 70 were made in his final 70 days); and he inspired Fauvists, Expressionists and legions of famous painters including Gauguin (1848 - 1903), Matisse (1869 - 1854), Maurice Vlaminck (1876 - 1958), Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876 - 1907), and Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992).

Even with the brevity of his life and profound mental illness, van Gogh paintings are some of the most renown in the history of painting.

Van Gogh, Red Vineyard in Arles.  Oil on canvas, 1888. Pushkin Museum. 

Explore more Vincent van Gogh paintings here. 

famous paintings flashcardsAre you a fan of famous paintings? 

So are the folks at Masterpiece Cards. We took 23 leading art history books (some 17,000 pages!) and researched which painters and paintings were cited from the 1440s to 1960s.

From the opinions of these 40 art historians, we selected the top 250 famous paintings and made them into a set of art history flashcards.  

Look at sample art history flashcards



Famous Artwork: The Adoration of the Lamb


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

The most famous artwork created by Hubert and Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390 - 1441) is the renowned Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432. 

This masterpiece of Renaissance paintings consists of 24 panels hinged together in a polytych; 12 art paintings are visible when the altarpiece is either fully open or closed. The most famous artwork in Ghent Altarpiece - and an icon of religious paintings - is The Adoration of the Lamb

Lamb of God Ghent Altarpiece

Hubert and Jan van Eyck. The Adoration of the Lamb, panel from the Ghent Altarpiece.  Completed 1432.

Based on a passage from the Book of Revelations read on All Saints Day (November 1), this painting shows the Lamb of God in a meadow, with the community of saints arriving from the four corners of the earth. In Christian belief, the Lamb of God was sacrificed to redeem humanity from the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. The Lamb of God's blood is captured in a chalice, while angels surrounding the altar hold the Instruments of the Passion:

  • the column upon which Christ was flogged;

  • the cross and nails from his Crucifixion;

  • the lance which pierced him; and

  • the sponge used to moisten his lips when he hung on the cross.

The two groups approaching the Altar in the background are the holy confessors, bishops and 

adoration of mystic lamb detail

cardinals (identifiable by their red, flat hats, above), and the holy Virgins (below). They carry palms to symbolize the triumph of martyrdom over death. 

adoration of lamb van eyck

In the left foreground (below) are representatives from the Old Testament and various well-known

ghent altar adoration

pagans, including the Roman poet, Virgil; he is in the center wearing a white robe and laurel crown.  The group in the right foreground (below) includes the Twelve Apostles, shown in front.  

twelve apostles van eyck paintings

The sheer dazzle and brilliance of this famous artwork are impossible to reproduce (and nearly as challenging to describe).  The late Thomas Hoving, author of "Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization", commented

The painting is renowned for how every detail is brilliantly rendered.  The realism of this work is literally breathtaking and there is simply no other work in existence that can come near to the intense concentration of the utter reality of everything in the picture, but especially of the details.  Everything... seems to have been (and perhaps was) painted with a single-hair brush

If you're lucky enough to be in Belgium.. get Adoration of the Lamb and the Saint Bavo Cathedral on your itinerary!  Read about other panels in Ghent Altarpiece. 


Learn about other famous artwork.

famous paintings art history cardsMasterpiece Cards feature 250 famous paintings on flashcards, and provide key facts, analysis of what each work means, and details of why it's significant.

See Samples





Famous Artwork: Ghent Altarpiece


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

One of the most famous artworks of Renaissance art - and one of the most renowned religious paintings in art history -  is the Altarpiece of the Lamb.  Called The Ghent Altarpiece due to its location in the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, it was created by Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390 - 1441); Jan completed the altarpiece in 1432, six years after his brother's death, making it impossible to know which famous painter was reponsible for which panels.  Regardless, the altarpiece remains a sterling example of a polyptych, or hinged, multi-panelled painting.  As the folding altarpiece is opened, it reveals additional subjects and narratives to its audience.

The van Eyck's masterpiece consists of twenty four panels of varying sizes and shapes aligned in two rows so that

van eyck ghent altarpiece open resized 600

Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck. Ghent Altarpiece (open).  Completed 1432. Tempera and oil on wood,  11'6" by 15'1".  Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent. 

twelve panels are visible with the Ghent Altarpiece open, and twelve when closed.

When open, the altarpiece depicts the Redemption of Man.  In the upper registry, or row of panels, God the Father appears in a frontal pose with a raised hand and a crown at his feet; he is flanked by John the Baptist, who wears a green robe over his hair shirt, and the Virgin, as in the Deesis.  On either side are choirs of music-making angels, including Saint Cecilia at her organ.  Adam and Eve are portrayed illusionistically in stone niches.

On the step behind the crown at the Lord's feet is a noteworthy inscription:

On his head, life without death.  On his brow, youth without age.  On his right, joy without sadness.  On his left, security without fear.  

These words capture the Franciscan conception of God as the benevolent Father of the human race, supplanting earlier beliefs in a judgmental, austere God. 

The bottom registry is dominated by the most famous artwork in the altarpiece, The Adoration of the Lamb by All Saints.  Laden with symbolism, The Adoration depicts the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, as the Just Judges, The Warriors of Christ, the Holy Hermits and the Holy Pilgrims convene. Read more about Adoration of the Lamb

When closed, Ghent Altarpiece consists of three rows.  At the top, two Old Testament prophets and two sibyls herald the inevitability of  van eyck ghent altarpiece closed resized 600 resized 600

Ghent Altarpiece (closed).  Completed 1432.  Tempera and oil on wood, approx. 11' 6" by 7' 7". 

the Annunciation.  In the middle is the Annunciation - the angel Gabriel, who foretold the birth of Christ and John the Baptist, delivers his message to Mary (right).  Her answer is, as in Jan van Eyck's The Annunciation, jan van eyck detailwritten upside down for God (and not the viewer) to read.

The central lower panel shows John the Baptist, who cradles a lamb, and John the Evangelist, who grasps a chalice.  Both are painted in grisaille, simulating sculpture, and are related directly to the altarpiece: Saint Bavo Cathedral was dedicated to John the Baptist, and John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelation, the source for the interior images.  On either side of the saints are believed to be the altarpiece's donors, Jodocus Vijd and his wife, Isabel Borluut. 

The van Eyck altarpiece is known for its minutely realistic depiction of every detail, reminding us that both van Eycks trained as miniaturists.  As the late Thomas Hoving noted in Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization

A visitor could spend a week viewing just the amazing crown.  The transformation of base materials to the divine, the sheen of gold on embroidered garments, in no way takes away from the overall impression of devotion and piety. For reverence, the Ghent Altarpiece wins out even over Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling frescoes.

NEW: See the Ghent Altarpiece up-close with thousands of new, high-resolution images, thanks to the Getty Museum, at Ghent Altarpiece up close

Are you in awe of famous artworks like Ghent Altarpiece? 

famous artwork in boxIf so, check out Masterpiece Cards.  These 250 art history flashcards explore some of the most famous artworks in Western art history.

Covering Renaissance art through Pop art, these are the Greatest Hits of Art History. On portable art history flashcards, you can hold and examine them. And compare them. And see a survey of the history of painting.

See one of these 250 art history flashcards - they're as unusual as Ghent Altarpiece



Masterpiece Paintings and More


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

When I attended my first art history conference after publishing 250 Masterpieces in Western Painting, I was censured by a art paintings masterpeicesfeminist art historian for the term "masterpieces".  At 50ish, each of us had forayed during the 1970s and 80s into male-dominated venues like business, academia and politics, to name a few.  I was stunned to be labelled "anti-feminist" for use of the word "masterpiece", so on this nippy Boston day, I researched its etymology.  To wit:

The Online Etymology Dictionary reports "masterpiece" is circa 1600, from master + piece, and is a translation of the Dutch word, meesterstuk, meaning "work by which a craftsman attains the rank of master". This work was completed by an apprentice, later a journeyman, who often was unpaid in his studies with a veteran.

Trade guilds stipulated that a person operating his own shop had to be first recognized as a "master" by the guild.  After its approval of the piece, the artist was only then permitted to start his shop and hire apprentices.  This "master piece" not only marked passage into a new business, but also became the label for an artist's finest artwork.  

So a clarification is in order -- "masterpiece" refers to artwork that is the pinnacle of an artist's accomplishment, not to historical gender inequity. That's a different topic entirely!







Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

With 2300 famous paintings in its collection of European paintings, London's National Gallery can be overwhelming. In fact, most art museums are -- which is when (and where) Masterpiece Cards' research is indispensable.

We surveyed nearly two dozen art history books to learn which famous paintings were discussed most frequently when art history pros assessed famous painters and art movements. These famous paintings, shown in bold-face, are included in 250 Masterpieces in Western Painting, a boxed set of art history cards examining Renaissance paintings through Pop works of art. The other paintings below are "runner-ups", according to art history pros. If you're lucky enough to be visiting London, this National Gallery itinerary will amaze and amuse.  Have fun!

Bellini, Giovanni. Doge Leonardo Loredon.  Oil on wood, 1501

Botticelli, Sandro. Mystical Nativity. Oil on canvas, 1500 or 1501

Bronzino, Agnolo. An Allegory (Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time). Oil on wood, before 1545

Canaletto. Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day.  Oil on canvas, c. 1735 - 1741

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da. The Supper at Emmaus.  Oil on canvas, 1601.  Read about other famous paintings by Caravaggio

Constable, John. The Hay Wain.  Oil on canvas, 1821

della Francesca, Piero. The Baptism of Christ. Tempera on wood, c. 1440 - 1450

Gainsborough, Thomas. Mr. and Mrs. AndrewsOil on canvas, c. 1748 - 1749

Hogarth, William. Marriage a la Mode: The Tete a Tete.  Oil on canvas, c. 1743.  Read about this art painting hereMarriage a la Mode: tete a tete

William Hogarth. Marriage a la Mode. Oil on canvas, ca. 1743.  28" x 36".  National Gallery, London.

 Holbein the Younger, Hans. Erasmus of Rotterdam oil on panel, c.  1523

Holbein the Younger, Hans. Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve (The Ambassadors). Oil on oak panel, 1533.  Read about other famous paintings by Holbein

Hooch, Pieter de. The Courtyard of a House in Delft.  Oil on canvas, 1658

Kalf, Willem. Still Life with Lobster, Drinking Horn and Glasses.  Oil on canvas, 1653. Read about this famous painting by Willem Kalf.

Lorrain, Claude. Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba.  Oil on canvas, 1648

Michelangelo, The Entombment.  C. 1500-1501.  Explore famous paintings by Michelangelo- there are four! 

Morisot, Berthe. Summer's Day.  Oil on canvas,1879

Poussin, Nicolas. The Abduction of the Sabine Women.  Oil on canvas, c. 1633 - 1634.  Learn about other famous paintings by Poussin. 

Rauschenberg, Robert. Bed. Oil and pencil on pillow, quilt and sheet on wooden supports,1955

Rubens, Peter Paul. Portrait of Suzanne Fourment (Le Chapeau de paille).  Oil on wood, 1625

Rubens, Peter Paul. The Judgement of Paris.  Oil on panel, 1632 - 1635. Love this famous painter? Explore more famous paintings by Rubens

Ruisdael, Jacob van. Two Watermills and an open Sluice near Singraven.  Oil on canvas, c. 1650 - 1652

Seurat, Georges. Bathers at Asnieres.  Oil on canvas, c. 1883 - 1884

Titian. Bacchus and Ariadne.  Oil on canvas, 1520-1530.  Read about some world famous paintings by Titian.   Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne. Oil on canvas, c. 1522-23. 5' 9" x 6' 3". National Gallery, London 

Turner, Joseph Mallord William. The "Fighting Temeraire" Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up.  Oil on canvas, 1838

Uccello, Paolo. The Battle of San Romano(left panel of a triptych). Tempera on panel,  c. 1445.  Read an art analysis of this famous painting, a favorite at Masterpiece Cards. The Battle of San Romano, and see images of this famous painting. 

van Dyck, Sir Anthony. Equestrian Portrait of Charles I. Oil on canvas, c. 1636

van Eyck, Jan. Man in a Red Turban (Self-Portrait?)Tempera and wood on panel, 1433. Below. Read about some of van Eyck's other famous artwork, The Adoration of the Lamb, the Ghent Altarpiece, and The Arnolfini Portrait.

man in a red turbanJan van Eyck. Man in a Red Turban (Self-Portrait?). Tempera and oil on wood, 1433.  13 1/8" x 10 1/8".  National Gallery, London. 

van Eyck, Jan. Arnolfini Portrait.  Oil on oak, 1434. Read about this famous painting by van Eyck

Velazquez, Diego. Venus with a Mirror (The Rokeby Venus). Oil on canvas, 1644 - 1648.

Wright (of Derby), Joseph. An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, Oil on canvas, 1768.

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Famous Paintings: Bacchus and Ariadne


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

One of Titian's most famous paintings, Bacchus and Ariadne, is one of five commissioned by Alfonso d'Este (1486-1534) for his palace in Ferrara, Italy.  Like many Italian Renaissance princes, he had a private art gallery, known as a camerino or studiolo.  His was a camerino d'alabastro, or small alabaster room, with white marble-veneered walls to showcase his collection of Renaissance artwork.

bellini feast of gods

Giovanni Bellini and Titian, Feast of the Gods.  Oil on canvas, 5' 7" x 6' 2".  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 

The bacchanal paintings commissioned for the Alabaster Room are all based loosely on Roman rites and rituals described by the poet Ovid (43 B.C. - A.D. 1). 

The centerpiece of the Alabaster Room was Feast of the Gods (left) by Giovanni Bellini (1430/1435 - 1516), the greatest Venetian painter of the 15th century. 

Like Feast, the other four commissions treated the theme of love. These works are:

  1. Dosso Dossi's Aeneas in the Elysian Fields; 

  2. Worship of Venus by Titian; 

  3. The Bacchanal of the Andrians by Titian; and

  4. Bacchus and Ariadne, the most renowned of these four Titian paintings.  

 titian worship of venusTitian, The Worship of Venus.  Oil on canvas, 1516  - 1518.  5'8" x 5'8". Museo del Prado, Madrid.

In The Worship of Venus (left), Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete, aided Theseus in his escape from the Minotaur's labyrinth, subsequently falling in love with the Athenian hero. 

Ungrateful for her assistance, he callously abandoned her on the Greek island of Naxos, where she wandered in mourning.  In Bacchus and Ariadne, she hopelessly extends her hand toward Theseus' dimly visible ship.  At that moment, her life is miraculously transformed by the scene Titian memorializes in this landmark painting - love at first sight from, and toward, Bacchus, the god of wine.

Bacchus is immediately recognizable both by the laurel and grape leaves adorning his hair, and by his company of satyrs and maenads (Bacchus groupies); one of these crashs cymbals while in a pose mirroring Ariadne's. He bounds from his chariot, pulled hertitian bacchus and ariadne

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne. Oil on canvas, c. 1522-23. 5' 9" x 6' 3". National Gallery, London  

by cheetahs rather than leopards.  This deviation from tradition is Titian's nod to Bacchus' conquest of India.  On the far right, the strongman Laocoon would have been immediately identifiable to the Italian Renaissance audience: an antique statue of this Trojan priest was unearthed in 1505, inspiring cross-references from many Renaissance painters and artists. The fat, elder man seemingly asleep on a donkey is Silenus, the head of the satyrs and foster-father to Bacchus.  

In the middle foreground is a baby satyr who alone directly engages the viewer.  He dons a garland and drags a calf head; its dismemberment - and drinking of its blood by the revelers - is a gruesome part of Bacchus' ritual.  In the lower left, Titian's name is inscribed in Latin on the urn, and translates as "Titian made this picture".  He was one of the first Renaissance painters to sign his artwork, and was an early proponent of improving the lowly social status of painters.

Curiously, this didn't include maintaining the integrity of paintings completed by others. Feast, completed in 1514, was altered by Ferrara's court painter, Dosso Dossi, who reportedly altered the painting to coordinate with other decorations in the Alabaster Room. Additional (and well-documented) alterations were made in 1529 by Bellini's student, Titian, who completely repainted the background. It is not known if this alteration was also made to complement other 'decorations' in the Alabaster Room!  When the Este family lost control on Ferrara in 1598, these famous paintings and sculptures were dispersed.

Note: If anyone knows when it became unacceptable to re-paint another artist's completed work, I'd appreciation learning -- it is so remote from today's standards! 




Famous Paintings: The Battle of San Romano


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

The Battle of San Romano is one of the most famous paintings in Renaissance art. Paolo Uccello, born Paolo di Dono, was nicknamed Uccello (Italian for "bird") because he frequently sketched them. His Battle of San Romano was painted on three panels now located in three different art museums, the National Gallery, Uffizi, and Louvre.  Together, they depict the legendary (but bloodless) battle of 1432 between Florence and Siena. 

 battle of san romano

Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano. Tempera on wood panel, approx. 6' x 10'7".  National Gallery, London.

National Gallery Battle of San Romano panel

The onset of the skirmish is depicted on the London panel (above). Here, the Sienese have ambushed the Florentine commander, Niccolo da Tolentino, and his force of twenty horsemen. Greatly outnumbered, the Florentines held their enemy at bay for eight hours until reinforcements arrived and vanquished the Sienese.  

This panel is renowned as a tour de force of detail battle of romanopageantry, of battle imagery, and of Uccello's introduction of one point (linear) perspective into Renaissance art.

Detail. Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano. Tempera on wood panel, approx. 6' x 10'7".  National Gallery, London.

 The broken lances on the ground form receding lines, or orthogonals, which converge on a fixed vanishing point.  Note that the prone soldier is conveniently aligned on an orthogonal (and that no blood sullies the scene, in spite of the gaping hole piercing his armor!)  The vanishing point, located by the horse's head, creates an illusion of depth; along with Niccolo's red and gold headdress and rearing white horse, they compel the viewer to focus on the pivotal and heroic figure. 

Niccolo was a condottiere, or professional mercenary, and a confidant of the Medici, the leading Renaissance arts patrons.  One can identify Niccolo immediately by his personal insignia, the knot of Solomon; this "knot of eternity" is shown on the banner held aloft by the bare-headed standard bearer. The battle is waged in the foreground space, with the middle ground blanketed by hedges of roses, oranges and pomegranates, all fertility symbols. In the distant cultivated fields, other warriors prepare crossbows.

The raised gold decorations on the harnesses are embossed in gold; their sculptural effect reminds you that Paolo Uccello apprenticed with Lorenzo Ghiberti. More significantly, Uccello designed these works to be hung above eye level, or approximately 7 feet from the ground.  In person, it is apparent that Niccolo's arm and horse were intended to be viewed from below rather than at eye level, making him all the more imposing.

Uffizi Battle of San Romano panel

In the center panel housed in the Uffizi (below), Bernadino della Ciarda, the leader of thebattle of san romano uffize

Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano. Tempera on wood panel, approx. 6' x 10'9".  Uffizi. 

Sienese mercenaries, is struck by a lance and knocked from his horse. The crux of the battle shows Bernadino sprawled on the ground to the right of the painting's central axis. 

Louvre Battle of San Romano panel

The final panel at the Louvre - and the last temporally - depicts Niccolo aiding the Florentine mercenary, Michelotto da Cotignola, as they counterattack the Sienese across the Arno river.battle of san romano louvre

Paolo Uccello, The Battle of San Romano. Tempera on wood panel, approx. 6' x 10' 7".  Musee National du Louvre.

There is now disagreement about who commissioned these paintings.  

Art historians had long agreed they were commissioned by Piero de Medici for the newly constructed Medici Palace.  However, Marilyn Stokstad suggests these famous paintings were actually commissioned by Lionardo Bartolini Salimbeni (1404-1479). His heir and son, Damiano, filed a complaint stating that Lorenzo de' Medici "forcibly removed" these Renaissance paintings from his family.  Whether true or not, an "in palace" inventory of 1492 records that all three Paolo Uccello paintings hung in the Medici Palace on the walls of Lorenzo's private quarters. 

Imagine the thrill (and the crowds!) if The Battle of San Romano were once again shown as a triptych!


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Famous Paintings: Arnolfini Portrait


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Among the most famous paintings in Renaissance artArnolfini Portrait has been enigmatic since Jan van Eyck (ca. 1370/90 - 1441) painted it over 450 years ago.

He left no documents to clarify the meaning of Arnolfini Portrait; furthermore, little is known of van Eyck's early life or training.  One of the few facts about van Eyck, gleaned from court and legal documents, is that he was retained in 1425 by Philip the Good, the duke of Burgundy (best known for having captured Joan of Arc). 

Although art historians generally attribute 25 Renaissance paintings to Jan van Eyck, that number is somewhat uncertain because signatures are rare on 15th century paintings. Instead, painters signed the frames but they were often lost or

van eyck margaret the wife Right: Jan van Eyck. Margaret, The Artist's Wife, 1439.  Oil on oak, 1439.  Approx. 13" x 10". On loan at National Gallery, London, from City Museums (Bruges)


In the case of van Eyck's Renaissance paintings, at least two bear his signature: Man in a Red Turban, believed to be a self-portrait (below) and Margaret, The Artist's Wife (right).

van eyck man in red turban resized 600

Jan van Eyck.  Man in a Red Turban (Self Portrait?), 1433. Tempera and oil on wood.  13 1/8" x 10 1/8".  National Gallery, London.

In both cases, the original frame bears van Eyck's motto, "Als ik kan", or the pun, "As I or Eyck can". While Arnolfini Portrait lacks its original frame, art historians agree that it's a Jan van Eyck painting, but disagree about its interpretation.

Above the concave mirror on the back wall, van Eyck has inscribed, "Johannes de eyck fuit hic 1934", which translates as "Jan van Eyck was here, 1434". Typically, though, a painting in 15th century Flanders would have been signed, "Jan van Eyck made this". 

The verbiage Jan van Eyck used in Arnolfini Portrait is what an eyewitness to a legal document would've used, fueling controversy about whether this is a wedding portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, or a "power of attorney" painting in which the husband grants legal permission for his wife to act on his behalf during an absence.

arnolfini-portraitIf Arnolfini Portrait is a wedding portrait, we can safely surmise that Giovanni is 30 years old or younger: in 15th century Flanders, a marriage ultimatum was given to unmarried men who were thirty, with names of those who failed to marry recorded in the dreaded "Book of Disgrace".  

Jan van Eyck.  Arnolfini Portrait, 1434.  Oil on wood.  32 1/4" x 23 1/2".  National Gallery, London.

The German scholar Erwin Panofsy asserted in 1934 that Arnolfini Portrait was indeed a wedding portrait, with van Eyck seen in the mirror's reflection and his signature verifying his presence.  Corroborating this claim, various Arnolfini Portrait features are associated with matrimony:

  • the couple has removed their shoes in recognition of the sanctity of the bedchamber, turning it into a holy place;

  • the bedpost finial is a wooden statue of the patron saint of childbirth, Saint Margaret, a nod to the fertility sought in marriage;

  • the fruit on the windowsill and chest allude to abundance or fertility;

  • arnolfini portrait detailhonoring customs of the Renaissance, the woman's robe is cinched above her stomach, giving the appearance of pregnancy but intended to emphasize fertility

  • while the dog is a rare breed (affenpinscher) indicating the couple's prosperity, it is also a traditional symbol of fidelity (thanks to Gardner's Fred Kleiner for noting that the common dog name "Fido" comes from the Latin fido, to trust, the root of ‘fidelity);

  • the ten roundels surrounding the mirror show the Passion of Christ, suggesting the Christian idea that the "eye of God" will watch the newlywed couple. 

Research by Lorne Campbell in 1998, however, contends that Arnolfini Portrait is a double portrait and not a wedding picture. Campbell states that the wedding ceremony Panofsky cited in his argument occurred in 1447 -- four years after Jan van Eyck signed Arnolfini Portrait, and also six years after van Eyck's death.

Barring newly discovered historical documents, Arnolfini Portrait will remain enigmatic, with the intentions of the artist and patron unclear. 

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Famous Paintings: The Virgin and Child with St. Anne


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

With the art history world abuzz with "La Bella Principessa", a drawing newly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519), I'm reminded again of the accomplishments of this singular Renaissance genius.  Not only did he create famous paintings, but also he is credited with seminal discoveries in engineering, sculpture, theater design, architecture, aeronautics, music and anatomy. In just 67 years!

Born in the town of Vinci, outside Florence, Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a notary, a scarring social stigma which some art historians believe contributed to his lifelong solitude. After training with the famous painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrochio (c. 1435-1488), Leonardo became master of Florence's Guild of St. Luke, an association named in honor of the patron saint of painters.  Unlike his contemporaries in Renaissance art, Leonardo was inspired by the primacy of the eye in direct observation, and of the intellect in comprehending what was observed.

Leonardo spent much of his life outside Florence, employed by foreign princes and kings often at war with his native land. Among these were Prince Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, who retained Leonardo from 1508 to 1513 as a painter and builder of catapults, bridges and cannons.  It was during this Milan tenure that Leonardo purportedly drew "La Bella Principessa", believed to be the prince's daughter, Bianca Sforza.  

One of Leonardo's most famous artworks, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, is an unfinished commission with

leonardo virgin and child

Leonardo da Vinci. The Virgin and Child with St. Anne. Oil on wood, c. 1503 - 1506.  5'6 1/8" x 3'8".  Louvre.

visible traces of underpainting. Even in its unfinished state, though, this famous painting illustrates three pictorial techniques either created or perfected by Leonardo: chiaroscuro (the use of light and dark to create effects of relief and modelling); sfumato (literally, "vanished in smoke", a technique of defining form and shape by gradations of light and dark); and aerial perspective (a method of indicating distance by tone and color contrast). 

Here, he has arranged the figures as a pyramid set in a landscape.  While the theme of the Virgin Mary, her mother (Anne), and Jesus was common, it is unusual for Mary to be portrayed in her mother's lap.  The background landscape, whose crags are seemingly replicated in Anne's veil, virtually melts in its sfumato haze. The baby lamb is both a symbol of innocence and of Jesus' sacrifice for humanity, memorialized in John the Baptist's reference to Jesus as the "Lamb of God".  

There are similarities between the Mona Lisa, dated 1503 to 1505,  and The Virgin and Child, painted in the same timeframe: Mona

Mona lisa smile leonardo

Lisa's famously enigmatic smile (above) is similar to Saint Anne's. Additionally, the hazy, misty backgrounds are evocative of each other, although in Mona Lisa, the left and right parts are mismatched and have different horizons.  As if Leonardo could foretell that Mona Lisa would become the world's most famous painting, he had this - as well as The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne - in his possession when he died in 1519.

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