Piero della Francesca (Borgo San Sepolcro, c. 1420 – 1492), The Baptism of Christ, c. 1445, tempera on panel, 167 cm x 116 cm, National Gallery, London
The representation of this evangelical scene is very peculiar: it doesn’t intend to tell the event in its actual reality, but rather through its multiple meanings.
Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as El Greco, (Heraklion, around 1541 – Toledo, 1614), The Holy trinity, 1577-79, oil on canvas, 300 x 170 cm, Madrid, Museo del Prado
The great painting by the Spanish painter is almost entirely occupied by the figures represented. There is no landscape, only the golden light on top, where the dove of the Holy Spirit is hovering around, and the low clouds on which the characters stand. In fact, the scene is entirely divine, it represents the Trinity.
Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg 1471 –1528), Christ among the Doctors, 1506, oil on poplar panel, 65 cm x 80 cm, Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
This intense and peculiar representation of the well-known evangelical episode was made by Dürer in just 5 days during his second stay in Venice (in addition to the artist’s monogram, we can read Opus Quinque Dierum, meaning “made in five days”, on the slip of paper sticking out of the tome in the lower left corner).
Giovanni Bellini (Venice, c. 1433 – 1513), Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, c. 1460, tempera on panel, 82 cm x 106 cm, Venice, Fondazione Querini Stampalia
The panel presents a crowd of people in a small space behind a marble balustrade. The picture is probably rich in meaning for the artist if, as it seems, the young man portrayed on the right is Giovanni Bellini himself, while the woman on the opposite side should be his wife Ginevra.
Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio (Correggio, Italy 1489 – 1534), Nativity, 1522-1530, oil on poplar wood, cm 256.5 x 188, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie
This large table that Correggio painted for the chapel of the Pratoneri family in the church of San Prospero in Reggio Emilia, Italy, represents an unusual scene. It is night, the special night in which Mary gave birth to Jesus. We know that something special happened that night for there is a warm, very intense light emanating from the child. It is a light that illuminates directly Mary, and then hits the other protagonists of the painting: the woman, the shepherds, the angels and even Joseph, who’s on the background.
Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo (Pontorme, 1494 – Florence, 1557), Visitation, around 1528-30, oil on board, cm 202 x 156, Carmignano, Italy, Prepositure of Saints Michael and Francis
Pontormo has set the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth in a dark city street, where some bare, off-scale buildings are visible. The darkness of the scene is pierced by the light that is reflected on the figures in the foreground, on the faces and especially on the drapery.
Lorenzo Lotto (Venice, c. 1480 – Loreto, 1556), Recanati Annunciation, 1527, oil on canvas, 166 cm x 114 cm, Recanati, Civic Museum
The environment in which the scene described by Luke (1: 26-38) takes place is a small room, with a few everyday objects used by Mary, the young woman living in it. On the right side of the painting there’s the mighty and real (we can actually see his shadow on the floor) figure of the angel Gabriel, who almost seems to have glided through the beautiful arched entrance. Above, in the clouds, the figure of God, the one who chose Mary to make her become the Mother of the Lord, His Son Jesus, and the one who sent the angel.