Art That Searches for a Truer Look at Jesus

By Christopher Andreae, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 5, 2000 | Go to article overview

Art That Searches for a Truer Look at Jesus


Christopher Andreae, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


One of the major roles of Western art over the centuries has been to represent Jesus Christ. And to convey orthodox Christian theology.

An exhibition at Britain's National Gallery, called "Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ," investigates this role. To do this, the gallery borrows works from other institutions while making use of its own remarkable collection.

At one time, this theme would have been considered easily accessible to most visitors. Not today, it seems.

Director Neil MacGregor writes that "a third of [the National Gallery's] pictures are Christian," but "many of our visitors now are not. And it is clear that for most this is a difficult inheritance."

The exhibition is a noble and multifaceted explanatory display. Some of the gallery's most beautiful paintings of Christian subjects - Piero della Francesca's "Baptism," for example - remain on view in the main galleries. The show is not an attempt to gather together supreme masterpieces, though some are included.

The unfamiliarity to many viewers of the themes explored in this exhibition - the use of signs and symbols in early Christianity, for instance, or the concept of "The Saving Body" in much later art - highlights large questions. Non-Christian viewers might be forgiven for wondering, given the inventive ways of many artists, whether the story of Christ were not pure myth. Nobody actually knows what Jesus looked like, they might reason, so how can art accurately represent him?

A section of the exhibition is, nevertheless, devoted to images of the typically long-haired, lean, and bearded features that are even today immediately identifiable.

The introduction to this section of the exhibition, "The True Likeness," begins: "Everyone in medieval Europe would have been confident that they knew what Christ looked like. Images of his face were everywhere, many of them claiming to be copies or versions of a miraculous 'true likeness' of Christ housed in St. Peter's in Rome."

To modern skeptics, though, such venerated relics are likely to seem authentic only to the naive. And visitors might also wonder how a religion of ineffability can have so radically slipped into the worship of icons and images.

This question is one that, over centuries, has occupied and concerned the thoughts of Christians themselves. How, if at all, can the ineffable, nonmaterial nature of Christ, his essential divinity, possibly be depicted by painters and sculptors? How can a medium that is entirely visual do the remotest justice to a subject that at its essence is invisible? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Art That Searches for a Truer Look at Jesus
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.