How Rembrandt Reinvented Jesus

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Did Christ really have awesome abs? Western art has frequently stumbled over the contradiction between the ascetic figure of Jesus of Nazareth and the iconography of Christ inspired by the heroic, Hellenistic ideal: Christ as beautiful, tall and broad-shouldered, God's wide receiver; blue-eyed, fair-haired, a straight aquiline nose, Christ as European prince.

Rembrandt van Rijn, in a career rich with artistic innovation, begged to differ. A new exhibition at Paris's Louvre museum—and coming to Philadelphia and Detroit later this year—shows in dozens of oils, charcoal sketches and oak-panel studies how the 17th-century Dutch painter virtually reinvented the depiction of Jesus and arrived at a more realistic portrait.

As "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" shows, before Rembrandt painters tended to reiterate the conventional imagery of Christ. Catalog authors Larry Silver, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Shelley Perlove, of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, call this "the predictable majesty" of the subject.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchArtHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeFranceThe Netherlands

Posted May 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm

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1. BlueOntario wrote:

Isaiah 53:2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
  and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
  nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Interesting to consider how the Reformation influenced the arts. While, sadly, there are always negative aspects to such movements, I think we can look at Rembrandt’s work as one of the more positive.

May 9, 10:11 pm | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

Rembrandt is the most wonderful artist, and his delight in the realistic depiction of the human body, warts and all (often literally) is a healthy antidote to hubris!

He also made an amazing statement of Christian faith when he depicted the Raising of the Cross, with himself as the person taking the lead in lifting the Cross!

May 9, 11:32 pm | [comment link]

© 2017 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.

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