Religious art is any art that depicts a painted image of a religious figure or event, especially a painted panel that is characteristic of the Eastern Christian church. It usually refers to an image believed to be sacred, which can aid in contacting the represented figure.
During the early Christian period, after the 4th century, the term icon was applied to all religious art, including mosaics, reliefs, and paintings. Few early painted icons survive, but a small group of 6th- and 7th-century encaustic (wax) paintings on wooden panels, from the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, show realistic, lifelike faces animated by large eyes and intense expressions. For private devotions, small icons were made, frequently in the form of miniature mosaics.