Famous 16th Century Canvas Paintings

Religious Themes

The High Renaissance took place between 1500 and 1525. Raphael (1483 to 1520), was one of the three preeminent artists of the High Renaissance, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Raphael’s oil on canvas, “The Sistine Madonna,” painted between 1513 and 1514, is an example of one of the most recognizable works today due to mass publishing of the two small cherubs gazing upward at the base of the canvas that have been reproduced today as print wall art as well as on greeting cards and stationery.

Greek Classicism

Venetian painters enjoyed a position of artistic supremacy throughout the 16th century. Giovanni Bellini (1430 to 1516) was the founder of the “Venetian School” of painting. His “Feast of the Gods,” an oil on canvas painted in 1514 that exemplifies this style, is famous for its portrayal of outdoor light. Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian (1490 to 1576), was one of Geovanni Bellini’s famous students. Titian is considered by many as the preeminent artist of his time. His “Venus and Adonis” (1560) is an oil on canvas depicting the famous Greek myth of the same name from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” It was the first in a series of eight depictions of Greek mythology, a theme that became extremely popular in the 16th century. Another in the series, “Rape of Europa,” painted in 1559 to 1562, is famous for Titian’s brilliant blending of realism and idealism.

Mannerism Movement

Mannerism was an artistic movement in the 16th century characterized by its elongated figures, complex poses and unrealistic settings. El Greco”s “Madonna and Child with St. Matina and St. Agnes” is a famous oil on canvas painting that exemplifies the Mannerism movement. Jacopo Tintoretto’s “Miracle of the Slave” and Descent from the Cross (“Pieta”) are renowned examples of Late Mannerism. Both are oil on canvas paintings; “Slave” was painted in 1548 and “Pieta,” in 1559.


This portrait of Queen Elizabeth is not signed but is widely attributed to Zuccaro.

The 16th century ushered in a trend of portraiture commissioned by royalty and wealthy patrons. Federico Zuccaro (1541 to 1609), a highly successful Italian painter who became one of the most famous and influential artists after Titian’s death in 1576, painted a famous oil on canvas portrait of the iconic Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. The portrait, one of many portraits painted of her by artists of the period, depicts the queen in a black velvet ceremonial gown and is titled simply, “Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.”

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