The Creepy Messages Hidden in Famous Devil Paintings

If you are a frequent art museum visitor or an eager online art appreciator, you’ve probably seen quite a few paintings of angels and demons. Unfortunately, some of the famous Devil Paintings – especially those created before and during the Renaissance era – can be scary, and often the viewer wonders what message the artist wanted to convey with the painting.

Art historians and scholars are constantly in a debate over what the meaning of some famous Lucifer paintings could be. While it’s not possible to pinpoint the meaning behind a painting or to “hear” the message sent by the artist, certain pointers are available to at least enable us to know what the trend was during specific art periods.

In this article, we’ll first look at these pointers and then discuss a few famous demons paintings.

Background on Devil Painting and the Messages Implied

Paintings featuring the Devil as the central subject matter also called Devil Paintings have been part of Western art since the beginning of early Christian art. Up to today, Lucifer and Satan paintings have been a popular subject. 

Various painters created realistic demon drawings during the Italian Renaissance. This trend continued into the Romantic Period, and even very modern artists used the themes repeatedly. Both angel’s and demons’ art became popular during the Renaissance era. 

Just like the way the Devil and demons are depicted is constantly changing, the meanings and messages conveyed by Devil paintings are also changing.

The Meaning and Messages in Renaissance Lucifer Painting

Lucifer paintings where Satan is depicted as the central subject matter already existed in Western art before the Renaissance. Before the 1500s, artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, for instance, painted their interpretations of the Devil. 

Their demon artwork depicted some supernatural being of immense evil and power. The messages in the paintings were that the depicted supernatural being was causing misery and pain for humans and the whole mortal world. The Devil was depicted as hideous and terrifying, and the messages conveyed from the scary demon paintings were meant to invoke fear in the viewers.

In the Renaissance period and until the 17th century, grisly Lucifer Renaissance art was meant to have a moral message and effect. According to art experts, Lucifer’s Renaissance paintings are regarded as iconic depictions of Satan as an evil and cruel being.

Satan Exulting over Eve by William Blake (1757-1827)

In this well-known Lucifer painting, “Satan Exulting over Eve”, which was created in the 18th century by William Blake, Satan hovers in glory over Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Many art scholars believe that the message of the painting is that although Satan has, according to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, been thrown from heaven, he can still influence humans.

Although Blake’s paintings and drawings of the Devil reflect his visions, some of his visions are still part of many people’s perceptions of the Devil.

The Messages in Satan Paintings During and After the Enlightenment

During the Enlightenment, the depicted creatures in evil paintings, and thus, also the messages conveyed to the viewer, started to become more human-like. The depicted creature and the messages have even become romanticized.

In the 19th century, the Devil was portrayed as shrewd – a Mephistophelean figure. The message was that the Devil would instead trick you out of your soul than brutally tear it from you.

During and after the Enlightenment, the message in the devil artwork that the viewer should fear the depicted creature was no longer so powerfully conveyed. A message of fear was no longer sent.

Hell by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)

“Hell” by the Dutch painter, Hieronymus Bosch, is one of the oldest and most famous paintings with the subject of the artwork focused on hell. “Hell” was completed in 1490 and formed part of a four-painting series.

In two paintings, Bosch depicted man’s ascension into heaven, and in the other two works, of which “Hell” is one, he showed man’s descent into hell. The message the artist wanted to convey in this painting was in line with the Christian belief that Hell is a place of torture and never-ending suffering.   

Interestingly, this Bosch painting has become the most famous scene of the underworld in Western art. His depiction of hell has become ingrained in modern pop culture and the broader Western conception of hell as a place of torture and never-ending suffering.

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