Obviously, no photographs of Jesus Christ exist. Scholars have long argued about what the man looked like, based on where he lived and the subtle descriptions of him that exist in the Bible. For a long period of time, Jesus was painted with traditional Anglo Saxon features. He was given blond hair, blue eyes, white skin and small facial features. All of this changed in the mid-1600s through Rembrandt paintings.
Rembrandt van Rijn painted biblical scenes throughout his long artistic career. In the mid-1600s, he began to paint using models from the nearby Jewish community. He encouraged his students to do the same. Rembrandt and his students began to paint Jesus with more traditional Jewish features, including darker hair and skin and slightly longer noses. In the Rembrandt portrait The Head of Christ, Jesus is shown with dark, flowing hair. His face is heavily bearded, covering his slightly almond skin. His expression is peaceful, as he looks off to the left of the canvas. Rembrandt would use this same model for several more paintings, and his students would also use this model for Christ portraits of their own.
While modern viewers may find this painting beautiful and touching, they may not consider it innovative. After all, we're accustomed to seeing images of Christ painted in this manner. But it's important to stress that we feel this way simply through the efforts of Rembrandt paintings. Christ was simply not portrayed with these features before these Rembrandt paintings. After they were executed, however, it became normal to paint Christ with these features. These Rembrandt paintings were extraordinarily influential.
These paintings by Rembrandt and his students are being exhibited, as a group, in the Louve in April of this year in a special show called "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus." At the center of the exhibit, seven Rembrandt portraits of Jesus will be shown, along with one portrait of Jesus painted by a Rembrandt student. In total, over 20 paintings, nearly 30 drawings and nearly 10 prints will be on display. After the exhibit is shown in Paris, it will move to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then to the Detroit Institute of Arts. If none of these locations are convenient for you, browse our online collection of Rembrandt paintings and sketches. Observe how Rembrandt utilized his Jewish models to paint realistic images of Christ. Watch how his style changed over the years. Perhaps you'll find a painting that speaks to you directly, that you simply must have for your own collection. Our prices are reasonable, and our artists are skilled and ready to begin working for you. Start browsing today.