Works of art in the 1300s to 1700s Europe and Italy could not but have had religious narratives as their subjects, given that Christianity was the dominant influence on the society of the era. In this way, the Italian and European renaissances were very similar. Rather than merely rendering replications of biblical narratives in oil on panels, artists introduced their own ideas and messages into their works, nuancing sacred themes to promote their secular ideas. As a result, religious art explicitly conveyed religious values, while at the same time serving as a vehicle for the expression of artists’ various interpretation of the changing times.
Political implications in fact frequently emerged via religious works of arts. During the Italian Renaissance era, Christianity dominated with the pope at the apex of the power structure. The church’s claim to power was explicitly expressed in the designs of medieval churches. With their vertically- structured, gigantically- sized, and excessively- decorated structures, clergies overtly demanded humility and obedience to God and the church. Acknowledging the power of the church, members of the ruling class tried to maintain a close relationship with church (claiming tight bonds with the pope) thus attracting the respect of the public. For instance, the Medici, the ruling family of Florence during the Renaissance, found a unique way with which to maintain their worldly power: by commissioning the construction of one of the most impressive examples of religious architecture to date- the Duomo of Florence (1436, Brunelleschi). Likewise the 17-foot marble sculpture David (Michelangelo, 1504) was created with similar purpose (The De' Medici Family - A Florentine Powerhouse During The Italian Renaissance, 2012) (Cosimo the Elder).
In contrast to those artistic triumphs, there came works covertly criticizing authority as well. During the spread of the Black Death in 14th century Europe, Northern...