How Well Do You Know European Paintings?


Image: wiki commons

About This Quiz

Art is the fulcrum around which the world turns. While work puts bread on our tables and roofs over our heads, it is art that ennobles us, that lifts us up from the day-to-day struggles of our lives and fills our hearts with emotions beyond any we have felt before. Art is one of the great aims of civilization - one of the ends at which all of our labors point. 

And there are few arts as great as painting, and few painters as great as the European masters. Developed over centuries of slow, painstaking evolution, of countless million discarded palettes and shredded canvases, the collective minds of Europe's painters crafted techniques that transcend the mundane inks and paints used to create them and forged true masterpieces, works that would stand the test of time and stand as a testament to the greatness humanity is capable of. 

Gathered here we have a carefully curated collection of some of the greatest works of art ever crafted by human hands. Rendered down into electronic motes of light rather than temporal pigment, they lose none of their incredible beauty. How well do you recognize these paintings? Now is the time to prove your knowledge and your culture, so click here and begin!

Identify this painting!

Created by the eternally famous Vincent Van Gogh, "Starry Night" introduces the viewer to the world as seen from his asylum window. He adds in a village below, giving the appearance of peace below as the clouds roil above.

Which masterpiece do you see here?

Painted by Édouard Manet, "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" shows a woman standing in front of a mirror as an enormous party goes on around her. The insertion of a bowl of oranges actually is a subtle signal that the woman is a courtesan, an association that the painter had used in other works.

Can you identify the painting shown here?

Perhaps the single most famous artwork of all time, the Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece. Thought to be a painting of Lisa Gherardini, Lisa's smile will continue to haunt viewers with its mystery for as long as it exists.

Which masterpiece is this?

"The Scream," by Edvard Munch, one of the few Norwegian paintings on this list, has garnered great repute due to its chaotic, alienating horror. It was actually stolen by gunmen in 2004, but police recovered it two years later.

Do you recognize this work?

Actually a fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel rather than a painting per se, Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" is one of the most famous works of religious art in the world. The full spark of life has not yet occurred in the image; experts have theorized that this will happen when God's finger actually touches Adam.

Which painting is shown here?

Painted by Sandro Botticelli, "The Birth of Venus" shows not the goddess's birth, but rather her subsequent arrival on shore, blown by the wind god Zephyr. The poses and stances of the figures in the painting are actually either physiologically impossible or awkward, and are meant to convey a sense of the fantastic.

Which beautiful work do you see here?

Claude Monet's gorgeous "The Japanese Footbridge" embraces the viewer in a sea of vivid greens and blues. The delicate pink water lilies add an adventurous splash of color that Monet was particularly proud of.

Which painting is shown here?

Perhaps the single most famous religious painting the West has created, Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" shows Christ's final meal as described in the Book of John. Tragically, little of the original painting remains, due to a confluence of environmental and deliberate human factors.

Do you know the name of this painting?

"Luncheon on the Grass" by Édouard Manet is a painting that saw a great deal of controversy. It shows the titled luncheon, but one of the women there is fully nude and partly looking at the viewer, and there is another partly dressed woman in the background. She is held up against the male luncheon-goers as starkly different, white and glowingly nude, versus their full dressed, more conservative selves.

Which work of art is this?

Created by the English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner, "Fort Vimieux" shows a British vessel meeting its end during a battle in the Napoleonic wars. Run aground, its colors blend with the sun as it sinks sadly beneath the waves.

Can you identify this work of art?

Created by the artist known as Raphael, the identity of the titular young man in "Portrait of a Young Man" is unknown. Tragically, the painting's location too is unknown, as it was stolen from Poland by the Nazis during WWII.

Which painting is shown?

Painted by Théodore Géricault, "The Raft of the Medusa" refers to a tragic accident by which a French captained ship was destroyed off the coast of Mauritania. This work is held up as a paragon of the French Romanticist style, in contrast to the Neoclassical school that typified its era.

Which portrait do you see here?

One of only four known paintings of women created by Leonardo da Vinci, "Lady With an Ermine" is a painting of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress to the Duke of Milan. Note the particular detail of Cecilia's outstretched hand as it pets the beast!

Which portrait is shown?

Created by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, "The Astronomer" portrays a robed man poring over a globe while reading a letter. It was stolen by Nazis in 1940, but thankfully recovered, and can now be found hanging in the Louvre.

Which painting is shown here?

Painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, "Cardsharps" was an attempt by the artist to create something personal, with meaning for him, after a career essentially factory-painting crowd-pleasers like fruit. The viewer of the painting can see the skullduggery afoot in this game of cards, in spite of the seeming innocence of the young players.

What work of art is shown?

"Night Cafe" was painted by Vincent Van Gogh. The setting, with its lurid colors, is a place for drunkards and the prostitutes who are found with them. They are meant to symbolize the more brutish and low passions of humankind. The gaslight and slumped patrons make for a depressing scene.

Which painting is shown in this picture?

Painted by the Flemish man Anthony van Dyck, "Charles I in Three Positions" portrays the doomed monarch as he appeared prior to the English Civil War. The triple portrait was meant to be a reference for creation of a marble bust. A companion portrait of his wife was called for, but the war ensured this would never come to pass.

Can you identify this painting?

Although it looks almost quaint to our modern eyes, "Paris Street; Rainy Day" by Gustave Caillebotte shows us a world in the throes of great change. The people dressed as they are symbolize the surging prosperity and wishes of the lower classes, and the architecture is that of a newly changed Paris.

Which work of art do you see here?

Painted by Caravaggio, "The Supper at Emmaus" is a Baroque painting showing the resurrected Jesus' appearance to two of his disciples. His lack of a beard may be due to his description as being physically different upon his resurrection.

Which painting do you see here?

Painted by Jacques-Louis David, "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" is an extraordinary piece of hero-worshiping art. The chief artist of Napoleonic France, here David creates a masterpiece aimed at lionizing the Emperor Napoleon and his Grande Armee, who at the time seemed all but invincible.

Can you identify this painting?

The most famous work of John Constable, "The Hay Wain" is regarded as one of England's finest paintings. A wagon is passed at a pastoral ford in the English countryside as the clouds billow majestically overhead, giving the viewer a deep impression of rural England. Ironically, the painting was originally better received when shown in France!

Which painting is this?

"Composition VIII" by Vasily Kandinsky was thought of by the artist as his finest post-war work. The painting radiates synesthesia as befits its name - to look upon it is to imagine music. It is frequently held up as a landmark example of Western non-representational art.

Which artwork is pictured?

Created by Francisco Goya, "The Third of May 1808" breaks with the conventional glorification of war in art to show a brutal scene of a man defying his executioners. It was created to commemorate Spanish resistance to the Napoleonic occupation during the Peninsular War, particularly during the Dos de Mayo uprising.

Identify this painting!

Made by Gilbert Stuart, the jauntily dressed gentleman cannot help but amuse and entertain the viewer. The gentleman is actually William Grant, a Scotsman who inspired the painting during one of Gilbert's trips to Hyde Park.

Can you name the pictured painting?

A physically huge painting, telling innumerable small stories simultaneously, "The Wedding at Cana" by Paolo Veronese has the main image is at its center, showing Jesus turning water into wine. Interestingly, we have the commission describing how the work was to be made and what Paolo was to be paid - 324 ducats and a barrel of wine, among other things!

Do you know the name of this artwork?

Painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, "The Swing" is a joyous display of color, with a well-dressed young lady enjoying swinging high in the air as she is spied upon by a mischievous gentleman. Enlightenment era killjoys would later attack the style of art demonstrated by this painting in particular as being overly frivolous.

Can you recognize the painting in this picture?

A Rembrandt painting of great reputation, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" portrays what its name describes, as a corpse is used to demonstrate anatomy to the eager onlooking students. The corpse was based on a real body, that of executed criminal Aris Kindt.

Which masterpiece do you see here?

Created by Sandro Botticelli, "Primavera" is a bit of a mystery. It shows various Graces and figures from myth interacting, but if there is a foundational story here, no one knows what it is. The painting also has several similarities to Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus," yet the works are not known to be meant to be a pair.

Do you know the name of this painting?

The painting "Las Meninas," or "The Ladies in Waiting," by Diego Velázquez, is a slice of life of the Spanish royal court. The small child is the sole surviving offspring of the Spanish royals, and she will later be married to the Holy Roman Emperor upon reaching the proper age.

Guess this painting's name!

An extraordinary painting rendered in triptych format, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch is a gorgeous enigma. It presents a surreal, sensual and apocalyptic vision divided into three panels, full of vivid color and strange imagery.

Which artwork is displayed?

"The Sleepers" by Gustave Courbet shows two women entwined, asleep after sex. It is credited with helping to normalize lesbianism in France by portraying it in a beautiful light.

Identify this portrait!

A painting by Sandro Botticelli, "Venus and Mars" shows the two deities relaxing after making love - Mars is in fact asleep. Venus has used her beauty and love to triumph over warlike aggression. Four satyrs play nearby. Don't confuse this painting with another work that bears the same title, by Paolo Veronese.

Do you know the name of this picture?

Created by master artist Albrecht Altdorfer, "Battle of Issus" is an incredible piece of landscape art that shows Alexander winning his spectacular victory over Darius at Issus. The Earth is full of knights battling (hey, he painted what he knew!) as the sky twists and roils overhead to match the chaos below.

What is the name of the painting shown here?

"Wheatfield With Crows" by Van Gogh shows a simple wheatfield, with crows flying beneath a menacing sky. It is that air of menace that defines the painting, giving the viewer a tingling sense of unreality and fear.

Identify this work of art!

"The Feast of the Rosary" by Albrecht Dürer is a painting displaying a Christian Germanic feast around images of the Madonna and Child. Filled with bright colors and celebration, the painting also has a small self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer hidden in the corner by a tree. See if you can spot it!

Which painting is shown?

Painted by Joshua Reynolds, "The Ladies Waldegrave" is a portrait of the three named daughters, relaxing in a parlor. Their brilliant white dresses and powdered skin appear almost ghostly, but the painting was actually created to try to draw suitors for them.

Do you know the name of this painting?

Painted by Van Gogh, "Street Scene in Montmartre: Le Moulin à Poivre" is an image of the street where the painter lived in the late 1880s. It bears his characteristic blend of Pointillism and Impressionism.

Can you identify this artwork?

A physically enormous painting, "The Fall of the Damned" by Peter Paul Rubens shows the host of rebel angels being hurled into Hell by the Archangel Michael. It is distinct for its portrayal of the angels stripped bare, their light skin contrasted with the abyss they are being hurled into.

Which painting is shown in this image?

Painted by Ivan Aivazovsky, "The Ninth Wave" is at first glance a seascape showing a mighty wave about to destroy a sinking mast and the people upon it. It is actually filled with Christian symbolism, however, as the mass is cross-shaped and the overall brightness of the work promises the possibility of salvation for the people clinging to it.

Which painting is this?

Created in 1830 by Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty Leading the People" was created in the hope for a bright future for the French rebels against the Monarchy. Ironically, the painting was later put into storage, due to its inflammatory political message. Today it is on display at the Louvre.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes