Introduction: The Life of Jesus
Art throughout history has been largely religiously based and there is no one more influential to western society than Jesus Christ. Our blog focuses on Jesus’ mortal life on earth. We focus in on His birth and the nativity, images of Jesus with his mother, Jesus and the relationship with his disciples, His baptism, and the miracles He performed throughout his life.
Jesus’ birth and the picture of the nativity is a subject that has been approached from a variety of angles. Since the 4th century, artists have based works off of the gospels Matthew and Luke that depict the Christmas story. Art based on the story of the nativity is still being produced even today, and because of this wide range in time of production the nativity story is one that can be widely interpreted. Looking at multiple nativity scenes further proves the fact that each individual artist has their own view on the story and therefore chooses a certain style or characteristic of art to portray their view. Dependent on both the artist and the time period produced nativity art emphasizes multiple themes like the power of Christianity over paganism, the coming of man of all ethnicities to worship the baby Jesus, and the general humility that comes in the birth of Jesus Christ. Artists from the Gothic, Early Renaissance, and High Renaissance will be examined and the styles associated with those time periods will be addressed in the discussion of the artwork.
Heidi will be discussing how the relationship between Jesus and his mother, the Virgin Mary, has been portrayed through history using art. Although it is not discussed as often as one would expect, Mary played a significant role in Jesus’ life. Even at the very beginning, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to bare a son, she showed devotion to him. This devotion continued after her son’s death.
Unfortunately, there is little information given in the Bible of Jesus’ relationship with his mother during his childhood. In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s love for her dear son is seen when Jesus ventures away from his family in Jerusalem. Jesus, who was twelve at the time, stayed in the Temple at Jerusalem after his mother and father left. They frantically searched, but only found him the next day. Out of love, Mary was distressed with her son, and questioned his choice in staying. Jesus replied that he had to be in his Father’s house. His mother no longer question, but rather “treasured all these things in her heart.” (The New International Version, Luke 2:41-51). Mary also did this after the birth of Jesus. Luke 2:19 states, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart “(NIV). Her love for her son is deep enough that, even when she is upset with Jesus, she still holds these events dear to her heart.
Since there is little information in Scripture about the relationship between Jesus and the Virgin Mary, it is noticeable that they are often depicted together in two main groups. Mary is often seen with Jesus close to, or after, the time of his death. Many depictions of her exist when Jesus was a child, however. Since a significant amount of differences occur in just the types of these depictions, Heidi chose to focus more on them.
The baptism of Christ is another important aspect of the life of Jesus. It marked the beginning of Christ’s Messianic ministry. This act was necessary for Christ to fulfill all righteousness, and signified his complete obedience to God. His baptism confirmed He was consecrated to God. As Jesus submitted to the hands of John, he knew of his appointment with the cross. He accepted that He would serve as a substitute to bear the consequences of our sins and failure. The baptism of Jesus in the waters of Jordan involved a burial beneath the water, followed by a resurrection. Mark specifically states that Jesus was baptized of John “in the Jordan,” and afterward, the Lord came up “out of” the water (Mk. 1:9-10). It is a reminder that baptism is an outward symbol of an inner change and transformation which can only be accomplished through Him. Christ’s baptism was to be an example for His followers. Art depicting the baptism of Christ calls us to experience this redemption and salvation through Him.
Although the focus is on the human life of Jesus Christ, it is also important to acknowledge that he was fully human as well as fully God. In examining all of the miracles that Jesus performed throughout his life it is evident that he is the living God come down from heaven to save and redeem His people. Oscar Ernest Bernhardt wrote that miracles were a very important part of Jesus’ ministry because they were a “relief of suffering” for the people that He healed, opening their hearts and minds to them, allowing them to hear the Word and be saved. In the Miracles section of the gallery, we explore artistic interpretations of His miracles, how they fit into the world in Jesus’ time, and how they impact the world today with His universal message today.
In the fifth section, Nate presents and discusses works of art that depict other various scenes throughout Christ’s narrative in which his disciples are present. These events are varied and happen over a decent period of time; he evaluates scenes that depict events that happen as early as Jesus’ temptation and as late as the start of the Passion Week. During his thirty years of life Jesus spent a great deal of time with his disciples, and many of his interactions with his twelve followers are well known and interpreted in a myriad of ways. As a result, artists from various times in history have depicted these interactions in an array of mediums and styles in order to show their own opinion of what value that particular event in Jesus’ life holds. Here, we take a closer look at the Temptations of Christ, The Vocation of the Apostles, The Calling of St. Matthew, The Transfiguration, and Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple. All of these works, listed in chronological order, represent notable events of Christ’s life and provide insight into the Biblical narrative as well as insight into the artistic world in which they were made.
NIV. (1995). Holy Bible (10th ed.). (K. Barker, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Corporation.