In the art world, those works which are considered to be the great works of the world were made possible through commissions from the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the world. From the time of the first civilizations, religious leaders and their power to convince the secular leaders came together to insure that religious themes were highlighted in all public and many private works of art.
As a result, depictions of ancient gods, miraculous events, and mythical beings were a popular topic in art. A very tiny minority of the populations could read books, so public art, combined with oral teachings, served as the only way that the public could be educated about the great myths and the latest developments in religious thought.
After the formation and growth in power of the Catholic church, religious art was the main category of public art to receive financing. Artists had to work for the wealthy benefactors or for the churches, because the average citizen could not afford a hand painted portrait or a marble statue. The wealthy benefactors knew full well that they had better be pious, religious, and with the church in all ways.
As a result, aside from personal portraits, landscapes, still life, and homes, religious art was a very popular thing to have in the home. It confirmed an entire household’s devotion to God and the church. And on many dreadful occasions, any desperate attempt to prove religious confirmation was made in order to save lives and homes.
The Catholic church had a massive, heavily staffed, and widespread mission to copy religious text, make new religious texts, and to illuminate those texts with calligraphy and artistic depictions of biblical events, concepts, and religious thought.
While the depictions of the ninth circle of hell might not have been appealing to the masses, the invention of the printing press allowed for cheaper duplications of bibles and books with depictions of Jesus, Mary, the Last Supper, the saints, the church leaders, and religious concepts. These were very popular with the average citizen. The ability to mass produce colorized prints led to prints on walls in almost every household.
To this day, there is no shortage of artistic renditions of religious entities, icons and leaders. Jesus, Buddha, and other religious art, the saints, and all forms of religious depictions reside in homes, private businesses, and churches. There is no shortage of calling for spiritually themed art, photography, three dimensional sculptured, stained glass, and other art.
As religion remains a powerful force in the lives of humans, religious art will remain as powerful depiction of that force and it’s icons.