John Calvin addresses this issue in his Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 11. In that chapter it becomes clear that he opposes:
- all images meant to represent God
- veneration or praying to any image
- man-made images in worship that do not serve a didactic purpose
The first eight sections of the chapter focus primarily on images of God. In §1, he writes:
We must cling to this principle: God's glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him.
In §2–4, he makes the biblical case against images of God, and specifies that both images and sculptures are illegitimate in §4. In §7, he calls images dedicated to saints "idols" and "monstrosities," and in §9 he makes it clear that any sort of adoration of images is unacceptable:
When you prostrate yourself in veneration, representing to yourself in an image either a god or a creature, you are already ensnared in some superstition. For this reason, the Lord forbade not only the erection of statues constructed to represent himself but also the consecration of any inscriptions and stones that would invite adoration.
He quotes Augustine in §10 on the influence of such images:
What Augustine says is true, that no one thus gazing upon an image prays or worships without being so affected that he thinks he is heard by it, or hopes that whatever he desires will be bestowed upon him.
So then, to Calvin, is any art permissible in worship services? In §13 he asks why Baptism and the Lord's Supper do not capture our attention, though in §12 he admits the usefulness of some art:
Within this class [of art not representing God] some are histories and events, some are images and forms of bodies without any depicting of past events. The former have some use in teaching or admonition; as for the latter, I do not see what they can afford other than pleasure.
Thus we see that Calvin finds highly objectionable all veneration, worship, and prayer to images. He emphasizes the value of the sacraments in providing images for the people, but accepts that some art, serving a didactic purpose, may be permissible as well.
Quotations from Institutes, ed. McNeill, tr. Battles. Section headings can be used to find similar wording in online editions of Beveridge's translation, such as on CCEL.