Fine art tells the story of the 2023 NFL playoffs

Does Mahomes think he can play until 45 like Brady? (1:17)

Patrick Mahomes joins "SportsCenter" to discuss his relationship with Travis Kelce, as well as how long the quarterback can play in his career. (1:17)

Sports have a long history of inspiring art.

There's the Boxer at Rest, in the National Museum of Rome. It's more than 2,000 years old. Residing in The British Museum is the Townley Diskobolos, a Greek statue depicting a discus thrower -- that's even older.

There are paintings and sculptures of wrestling, fox hunts, foot races, chariot races and on and on.

"The human body is a profound and complex source of inspiration," visual artist and architectural designer Maurice Casas told ESPN. "It serves as a reminder of who we are. The human body is a shell packed with the attributes, complexities and anxieties of our humanity that at some point have a need to be expressed."

That combination of artistic expression and sports is combined into one popular social media feed: Art But Make It Sports (@ArtButSports).

"I like viewing art through a sports lens," LJ Rader, the creator behind the account, told ESPN.

The fine art meme-making comes from a person who doesn't have an art history background or education, but "a fan who has spent significant time digging deep into artists and different styles and motifs within the art space."

His work was on full display throughout the NFL playoffs, including Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. From Raphael to Rubens, here's the story of the postseason through paintings.

The divine Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes suffered a high ankle injury in the AFC divisional round against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The injury usually requires a recovery time of 4-6 weeks. Mahomes missed a single series. Often hobbling, he threw for 508 yards and five scores in the two games following the injury while winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Some might call that miraculous.

"Whoever is capturing the image in sports does similar things to what a titan does, where you want to elicit a reaction," Rader said. "You want to show the beauty and movement of an athlete the same way you might want to show the beauty and movement of a religious scene."

Rader chose three different paintings featuring Jesus Christ for his posts about Mahomes.

Hang these plays in the Louvre

Art But Make It Sports began in 2015. Its database of world class paintings is often the extent of the pictures on Rader's phone. He has pictures of around 7,500 paintings from museums he has visited around the world. Rader said he has tried to memorize what's in his photo archive so that he is ready when a play or moment in a game happens.

"There's a sports image that happens in a game and I either know exactly, off the top of my head, the [artwork] is something I've taken a photo of or seen," Rader said. "I can tell what it might look like, what art history motif it might be ...or start to think about what artist's style that might be."

High Renaissance and Baroque were his themes for the NFL playoffs. Britannica describes Baroque as "stylistically complex, even contradictory. In general, however, the desire to evoke emotional states by appealing to the senses, often in dramatic ways, underlies its manifestations."

Battling styles? Emotions and drama? Surely a Baroque artist would love postseason sports. However, while Raphael's work is known for its grandeur and what Britannica calls a classical spirit that is "harmonious, beautiful and serene," Cincinnati Bengals Joe Burrow, featured next to the painter's "Fire In The Borgo," might not agree.

French Neoclassical painter Jacques Louis-David's work was used for two other plays from the AFC playoffs. Some memes don't always tell the whole story. Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley's leaping attempt ended in a fumble which the Bengals returned 98 yards for a score. Napoleon was eventually exiled.

Modern interpretations

While his memes often use medieval and Renaissance-era European paintings, Rader's personal favorites are more modern and include Alice Neel, Georgia O'Keeffe and Bill Traylor. Modern art, however, can be trickier to use because of interpretations of the human body.

"Modern artists represent people in more diverse and complex forms and styles than previous art movements, because they are on the other side of history with hundreds of years in between," Casas said.

Impressionism, realism and contemporary styles were used to capture some of the scenes of the postseason.

"I like old masters' work a lot, probably because they're good for meme fodder, but some of the more contemporary work I have a hard time getting behind," said Rader, of his favorite artists to use for the feed. "The more abstract work can definitely play, if done correctly."