I am not a Christian, so please excuse my Philistinism if I'm missing the obvious, but ever since I saw this painting on my Grandma's wall I've been intrigued by it. Particularly the standing stone in the foreground and by the odd little stare Jesus seems to give it.

Question: Does anyone know if there's any deeper (Biblical) meaning to it?

"Christ in the Desert", Ivan Kramskoy, 1872

"Christ in the Desert", Ivan Kramskoy, 1872

  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about art interpretation.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 18, 2014 at 13:59
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    Anyway Wikipedia says it's about his time of fasting in the desert. I'd guess that he's hungry.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:02
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    One of the temptations in the desert was to turn stones into bread. I would say that it is related to this.
    – Belinda
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:07
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    This is question about Christianity! It's on topic! ☺ And I'm sure there's deeper meaning behind it, but the way the question is currently phrased leaves it too open to opinionated answers. Maybe "What is the author's stated meaning of this painting?" or something like that.
    – LCIII
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:19
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    @LCIII "What is the author's stated meaning of this painting?" would put it firmly in the category of Art History, not Christianity. Dec 18, 2014 at 14:21

3 Answers 3


From the title of the picture, I feel it is safe to assume the author had this in mind:

Matthew 4:1-4

1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The stone is so oddly standing in order to stick out. Otherwise it wouldn't be Jesus staring at a stone, it would be Jesus staring.

  • tl;dr> Why is Jesus looking at the stone? Answer: BECAUSE HE'S HUNGRY! Dec 19, 2014 at 19:21
  • @AffableGeek Rather because he is tempted to turn it into bread!? I certainly wouldn't be looking at a stone (just) because I was hungry ;-) My answer is just pointing out what scene is shown here, nothing more.
    – kutschkem
    Dec 19, 2014 at 19:32

All so called Christian art is Biblically based; and is intended to induce some reflection of some event in Biblical History otherwise it would not be Christian art. Even going back to the old Masters, much or even most of their artworks were based on their concept of some event from the Bible.

The picture you asked about along with many other paintings are symbolic and are intended to elicit contemplation on the part of the viewer. As to what that painting refers to in the Bible is mostly an association within the mind of the viewer.

One person might be reminded of the temptation of Christ when Satan said turn these rocks into bread while another person might be reminded of the aloneness of Jesus and that he was like no other man who ever walked the earth. The more connotations that a painting can induce in it's viewers the better.

The painting itself readily identifies itself with Jesus in it's title and for my part it represents many facets of Jesus life on earth. His loneliness, his deep concentration, among many others.

And although it most likely will be deemed off topic I felt it necessary to give you this explanation even though I will be called down for answering an off topic question.

  • +1 Thank you for this good reminder of what symbols and interpretation are.
    – kutschkem
    Dec 18, 2014 at 15:25
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    I won't call you down. Personally I think of late there's been a bit too much "calling down" going on. If a relative newcomer asks what appears to be a serious question, even about a painting which features the Christ of Christianity, then I say let's not discourage him or her with disparaging comments. Also, I like that the painting doesn't depict an evil spectre lurking in the background. In all likelihood, Satan communicated with Christ via a purely spiritual medium in a meeting of minds, as he does with all of us. The battle against Satan requires spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:12 ff.). Dec 18, 2014 at 22:28
  • @rhetorician I fully agree with your opinion on recent calling down and also agree with your thoughts about Satan. He is an angel, albeit a bad one, but angels are purely spirit beings, when Satan tempts one of us he does not appear in some material form he just inserts that temptation into our brain. The Old Testament has multiple incidents of this. Even with Eve he used the person of the Serpent. And when Jesus sent Judas to betray him he indicated that also.
    – BYE
    Dec 19, 2014 at 0:42
  • @rhetorician If you think there is a problem with the site and/or have a suggestion for fixing it you can raise the issue on Christianity Meta. That's both the place to raise awareness for such issue as well as decide what site guidelines are for dealing with them. In the mean time comments are not the appropriate venue for this kind of discussion. Thanks for understanding.
    – Caleb
    Dec 20, 2014 at 8:55

On the present level, it is the temptation to turn stone into bread.

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. Luke 4:3

But on the future level, there's a valley of sorts between Christ and the stone. There's also an obvious round rock between the valley and upright stone. Jesus is looking past the valley of the shadow of death to and past the stone rolled away from the tomb to the time when men's hearts of stone are turned by Christ the living bread to lively stones.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:51

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

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