mona lisa smileLove reading analysis of famous paintings? 

Explore 250 top art paintings with the Famous Paintings ebook - and discover highlights in U.S. and European art museumsWith sortable data and introductory art essays. 


Then try smiling like that. 


Famous Paintings Reviewed

Michelangelo Paintings

Posted by Susan Benford

Think "Michelangelo" or "Michelangelo artwork", and one likely envisions his Sistine Chapel ceiling, or statues like the Vatican's Pieta or David in Florence.

michelangelo paintings torment st anthonyComparatively unknown, though, are these four Michelangelo paintings:

  1. The Torment of Saint Anthony

  2. The Manchester Madonna

  3. Holy Family (Doni Tondo)

  4. Entombment

And one is in the United States!

Michelangelo Buonarotti. The Torment of Saint Anthony, c. 1487–88. Tempera and oil on panel, 18 1/2 x 13 1/4 in. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Torment of St. Anthony

Purchased in 2009 by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, The Torment of St. Anthony is the sole Michelangelo painting in any American collection.  

Given that it's also one of the few finished Michelangelo paintings, The Torment immediately became one of the most famous paintings in any U.S. art museum. 

Ascanio Condivi, Michelangelo's student and subsequent biographer, recounts that Michelangleo was inspired to create a painted based upon an etching by Martin Schongauer titled The Temptation of Saint Anthony. 

Condivi adds that Domenico Ghirlandaio, the owner of the Schongauer engraving and an established Italian Renaissance painter in his own right, was stunned at the brilliance of Michelangelo's creation. 

No surprise at that -but Michelangelo was 12 or 13 when he painted The Torment!

Michelangelo Buonarotti. The Torment of Saint Anthony, c. 1487–88. Tempera and oil on panel, 18 1/2 x 13 1/4 in. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

The Madonna and Child with St. John and Angels (The Manchester Madonna)

michelangelo paintings madonna and childStarted roughly a decade later, this Michelangelo artwork shows Christ pointing to a passage in a book being held by the Virgin Mary; below her, a pair of angels studies the scroll. 

The contents of the book and scroll, an attribute of St. John, likely foretell Christ's future life and sacrifice.  On the left are a pair of unfinished angels blocked in with the green paint typically used by Renaissance painters to create flesh tones.

Even unfinished, it's a gem.

Michelangelo Buonarotti. The Virgin and Child with St. John and Angels (Manchester Madonna), 1497. Tempera on wood, approx. 41" by 30". National Gallery, London

Holy Family (Doni Tondo)

This circular painting, or tondo, was fashionable in Renaissance paintings of Florence. 

Doni Tondo was believed to have been painted to celebrate the marriage of Agnolo Doni and Maddalena Strozzi, and is one of the most famous Michelangelo paintings. 

michelangelo paintings doni tondoThe viewer gets to decide whether the Virgin is taking the Infant from St. Joseph, or instead handing Jesus to him. 

Behind the wall is a young St. John, who will ultimately announce the
coming of Christ. 

While the meaning of Doni Tondo isn't certain, the presence of St. John alludes to Christ's birth and baptism. 

Michelangelo Buonarotti. Holy Family (Doni Tondo), ca. 1504-05. Oil tempera on wood, approx. 47" diameter. Uffizi, Florence.

The Entombment

Michelangelo portrays here a lifeless Christ being carried to his tomb.

Art historians disagree over the identities of those carrying the dead Son of God, a situation confounded by the unfinished state of this artwork.

Saint John the Evangelistusually shown in red with long hair, may be the figure on the left carrying Christ. michelangelo paintings entombmentThe others may be Nicodemus; Saint Joseph of Arimathaea, who gave up his tomb for Jesus; and Mary Magdalene, the kneeling figure to the left. 

It is believed this Michelangelo work was intended for the tomb he was designing for his patron, Pope Julius II; neither the painting nor the Pope's tomb was ever completed, however.

Some art historians have questioned if this is indeed a Michelangelo painting.

A preparatory sketch in the Louvre shows a figure resembling the kneeling woman on the left, lending credence to a Michelangelo attribution. 

As the National Gallery observes in its analysis of Entombment, one easily forgets how closely related the visual arts were in the Renaissance -- painting, sculpture, and architecture were intertwined, and artists frequently practiced all disciplines.

Read about a recent painting some attribute to Michelangelo!

The Entombment, about 1500-01.  Oil on wood, 5'4" by 4'11".  National Gallery, London.

Like Art History?

We're crazy about it, and make it easily accessible (and fun) with Masterpiece Cards, a handheld survey of nearly 6 centuries of art history. Each Card features:

  • masterpiece cardsa color-faithful reproduction

  • key facts about the work

  • an essay introducing its meaning and importance.

Curious to see what a Masterpiece Card looks like? Sate that curiosity: 

See Samples


Like what you read here?

Consider joining this blog for similar art history articles - your opinion and thoughts are welcome! 

Join Art History Blog

Topics: michelangelo paintings, famous paintings by michelangelo

Join this Blog - (and add your thoughts!)

Feeling Lucky?

famous paintings cards

Good - because we're feeling generous!

Join this blog and earn a chance to win a FREE set of Masterpiece Cards (a $60 value). 

Enter Me to Win!

Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

Did we mention it's free? d0e42560-d745-43b3-8b2d-9ee2d3273b82

Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

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, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

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

El Greco, View of Toledo

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.  GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

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

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

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

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

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

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

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

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

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

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

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

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

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 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

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. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

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.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

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 Reading List: 50+ great reads in fiction and non-fiction

Art History Videos on YouTube

Cave Paintings

Most Controversial Paintings

Google Art ProjectArt Museums Up Close

Survey of Female Artists

Survey of Renaissance Paintings.

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors