The Family Project > Art > Session Two: Art History and Background

Session Two: Art History and Background

"The Trinity Adored by the Duke of Mantua"

Image 2-1: The Agony in the Garden

Mantegna's "The Agony in the Garden"


Andrea Mantegna, The Agony in the Garden (c. 1459)

National Gallery, London


Mantegna was a North Italian Renaissance artist (1431-1506) influenced by Donatello. He became an influence upon the great Albrecht Durer, whose Adam and Eve we will consider in a separate post. Mantegna created many wonderful works depicting biblical truths and stories. The Agony in the Garden portrays Jesus in fervent communion with His Father on the evening before His death. It is here, as we read in John 17, that He prayed for His disciples and asked God to “glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (v. 5). Despite the serious scene, Mantagna gives us some humor in his portrayal of the disciples front and center along the bottom of the work. They aren’t merely sleeping—they look positively comatose!

Image 2-2: The Trinity Adored by the Duke of Mantua and His Family

"The Trinity Adored by the Duke of Mantua and His Family"


Pieter Paul Rubens, The Trinity Adored by the Duke of Mantua and His Family, 1606

Private Collection


This work is very rare in its portrayal of the Trinity with the pre-incarnate Christ in communion with the Father and the Spirit. This is relevant to our study because it envisions what is described to us in John 1:1—the unity and communion of the three divine Persons of the Trinity doing what they have done from eternity past: simply basking in one another’s glory and love.

Rubens was an extremely active Flemish Baroque and Counter-Reformation painter based in Antwerp. This beautiful work, depicting a Duke and his family worshiping the Holy Trinity in humility and love, was completed for a wealthy patron.

Image 2-3: Adam and Eve

"Adam and Eve"


Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, (1507)

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid


Curiously, there are very few paintings of Adam and Eve without a reference to the tempting Serpent and the forbidden fruit—as if these first two God-imagers were simply vehicles for the Fall with nothing else of importance to tell us. In reality, however, their God-imaging nature was their most significant characteristic. Even though the Serpent and the fruit are present, Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve gives us a beautiful picture of what God created as His physical, flesh-and-blood image bearers in the world. When we see them, we are moved by the power of their physicality, not just as generic humans, but as a man and a woman. We are struck by their nudity, not because it is “dirty” or “naughty,” but because of the power presented in both the male and female forms.

Why do you think Satan has been so set upon—and successful—in distorting the human body through depictions of it being destroyed by violence and degraded by pornography? He attacks that which is representative of or meaningful to God. He knows what the human body represents!

Born in Germany, Dürer was one of the most talented of the Northern Renaissance painters. He did woodcuts, portraits, biblical scenes and beautiful zoology paintings, the most celebrated of which is Young Hare (1502), demonstrating Dürer’s amazing watercolor technique.

Image 2-4: Pioneer Plaques

Pioneer 10 plaque


NASA’s Pioneer 10 and 11 Plaques


NASA placed very interesting 6 by 9 inch plaques on both the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft in the early 1970s. In the event that either ship was intercepted by extraterrestrial life, these plaques were intended to explain pictorially where the craft originated and who sent them. The plaques have many technical symbols and figures to explain where in the universe these space vessel-launching creatures live. And who are these “creatures”? They are not just two indiscriminate beings, or even mere humans, but a male and a female, the two kinds of humans extraterrestrials would find if they were to visit our planet. The man’s upraised hand sets a tone of welcome and goodwill. It is extremely interesting that one of the most sophisticated efforts of modern science would present to the universe essentially the same thing God presented to the universe on the sixth day of creation: a male and female that show forth His image in creation.

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