Top 5 Most Iconic and Famous Crucifixion Paintings Ever Made

By  //  September 14, 2022

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The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one of the most famous images in all of Western culture. The figure of Jesus Christ on the cross is such a powerful visual that Christians have adopted it as the symbol of their faith. Crucifixes hang on walls worldwide; some Christians even wear the image around their necks, next to their hearts.

In the world of painting, the image has appeared repeatedly and was particularly popular during the Middle Age, especially for artists throughout the 15th to 17th centuries. As a result, historical Christian paintings and paintings of the crucifixion have played a bigger role in art history than most people realize.

The importance of Jesus Christ and the Crucifixion to European cultures throughout History cannot be understated. It represented such things as hope, redemption, and forgiveness, qualities that are sorely lacking in our society today. The following is a look into some of the best crucifixion art ever created.

The Elevation of the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens, without a doubt, is one of the most famous Christian painters of all time. He devoted most of his life and artwork to bringing the works of the bible to picture form and some of the most iconic myths and legends. He also painted many fantastic landscape and portrait paintings; however, he is primarily known for his religious artwork.

Many consider him the most influential painter of his period and the greatest religious painter of all time. The Elevation of the Cross is one of his most famous paintings as it strikingly captures all the anguish of Christ’s crucifixion like no other artist ever quite has.

The level of detail is almost photographic, yet, the vivid coloring and air of mythos add a layer of grandeur beyond this world. Some of his other Crucifixion paintings are The Descent from the Cross and Christ on the Cross.

The Crucified Christ by Bartolome Estaban Murillo

The Crucified Christ by Spanish Baroque painter Bartolome Estaban Murillo is the quintessential image of Christ on the cross that most people hold in their minds. It is bleak and macabre in its tone and color palette as a means of highlighting the pain endured by Christ.

Another aspect of the Crucified Christ that makes this historical crucifixion painting different is that Jesus is depicted alone in his agony. In many cases, paintings of the crucifixion depict many characters around Jesus, such as his mother and disciples; however, Murillo chose to portray Jesus alone to fully highlight Christ’s sacrifice and what it really means for humanity.

Christ suffering alone is one of the most powerful and significant teachings in the Christian faith. So many incredible artists throughout history have attempted this massive undertaking of showing Jesus on the cross, and Murillo did it as masterfully as any of them.

The Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin

French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin’s The Yellow Christ is one of the most unusual Crucifixion paintings ever painted. It is one of two Jesus on the cross by Gauguin and is considered the essential Post-Impressionist and Symbolist piece of Gauguin’s collection and the movement as a whole.

It is a favorite painting of study for students in all art schools across the world because of its symbolism and boldness of composition. Gauguin is arguably the most colorful and human of all the crucifixion paintings throughout history.

There is both a childlike quality to Gauguin’s art and, at the same time, a highly mature contextual narrative. Despite its cartoonish appearance, the painting poignantly emanated all the emotions of Christ on the cross and hit home deeper in its message than many other works of the Crucifixion.

Crucifixion by Tintoretoo

Crucifixion by Renaissance painter Tintoretto might just be the most epic and detailed Crucifixion painting of them all. It is also different from many other paintings of Jesus Christ on the cross in that it shows the Son of God still alive as the chaotic event of his public death takes place around him.

The epic nature of Tintoretto’s depiction is staggering, and the painting is supremely cinematic. So there are numerous stories in the painting that it is one work of art that you could study for hours and still not interpret everything Tintoretto tells on this sprawling canvas.

However, Christ remains the pivotal point as he rises above all the madness of the Earth. In this cross painting, the message of Jesus being the light and savior of the world is perfectly portrayed. Many of Tintoretto’s other religious paintings display similar inspiration and are worth checking out.

Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Caravaggio

Not all Crucifixion paintings necessarily involve Jesus Christ. Many other masterpieces have been made that showcase some of the other known crucifixion stories and fables. The Crucifixion of St. Peter by Italian Baroque maestro Caravaggio is one such painting.

Just like the paintings of Christ on the cross, The Crucifixion of St. Peter is also a story of Martyrdom. Peter was one of Jesus’s Apostles and was also said to be Crucified by the Romans for preaching the word of God, which was considered a crime. Interestingly, Peter requested to be crucified upside down as he did not feel worthy of being killed the same way as his Master.

Very intense stuff that Caravaggio was able to capture in his painting exquisitely. There have been many other crucifixion paintings not involving Jesus. The Crucifixion of St. Peter is just one of the most popular in art, alongside the Crucifixion of Christ.


Crucifixion art has played its part in the collections of many of the greatest artists of antiquity. Its message is powerful, and you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate it. The cross will always be a symbol that holds much power within it.