By Joseph Batoni to Pompeo Batoni – Own work by Lloydbaltazar (2011-04-12), CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16015947
Don’t forget to consider the image first. Spend some time really looking at the image, the face, and the background. How does the image make you feel? What questions does it raise? Do you think it’s a good representation of Jesus, and if so what attributes do you feel the artist is trying to portray? You may wish to write some of your thoughts down.
Here’s Wednesday’s link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Heart#/media/File:SacredHeartBatoni.jpg
“Another series of images of Jesus that affects the imaginations of many can go under the heading of what we call spooky Jesus. They are similar to the bearded-lady Jesus in that they present a somewhat feminized picture of Christ, but they go further by adding a variety of highly symbolic, ethereal elements to the picture. Many of these are referred to as sacred heart images, where an ethereal-looking Christ holds open the folds of his robe to reveal a glowing heart. These immensely popular portrayals of Jesus present him as an otherworldly being, swathed in swirling haloes and unearthly auras (probably to ensure that the viewer would not miss the fact of his divinity). This Jesus seems almost heretical. Why? Because these images seem to portray Christ’s divinity at the expense of his humanity. It’s as if his God nature can be barely contained by his ill-fitting human shell. The early church worked hard to ensure that while it affirmed Jesus’ divinity, it did not lose sight of his complete and total humanity. And it was right to reject any notions that diminished his humanity. Portrayals like spooky Jesus can rightly be labelled docetic (the heresy that claims that Jesus only seemed to be a human but was not). When we look at the Jesus of the Gospels, we find this was exactly what Jesus was not. The incarnation emphasizes the fact that Jesus’ humanity so contained the divinity of Jesus that his family, his neighbours, his friends, and even his disciples did not fully realize that God was present in the human person they encountered in Jesus—so hidden was his divinity in his humanity. Glowing halos, exposed hearts, and dramatic posturing—all regularly included in these depictions—take us away from the Gospels rather than toward the real Jesus. One ancient icon shatters these conventions. It was found in the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai desert. While still sporting a dramatic halo, the St. Catherine’s icon depicts Jesus as tranquil and unruffled. To be sure, he has the face of a Roman scholar rather than a Palestinian rabbi, but the artist has nonetheless tried to eliminate the spookiness often transposed onto pictures of Jesus. He has painted him as an all-wise teacher. His face is not symmetrical like that in many spooky Jesus icons. It is more flawed, less lovely than the others. Such religious portraiture was rare though. The Romanesque depiction of Jesus’ face characteristically portrayed him with a mask-like visage and a radically expressionistic, transfixing gaze. This, along with the halo, was supposed to convey a sense of the transcendent or the holy. Early Christian artists were conscious that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, but when depicting him in icons, paintings, murals, and stained glass, they erred on the side of the divine, assuming that a divine human wouldn’t look quite like a, well, human human. If the Holman Hunt Jesus is a benign, insipid, emasculated man, then spooky Jesus is an otherworldly and distant being. One raps respectfully at the door to your heart, while the other waits serenely for you to approach him. The Holman Hunt Jesus cares, while the Romanesque Jesus knows! If we asked you to show us your Jesus, and you said he looked like spooky Jesus, we’d guess you feel most comfortable with the intangible, wise, ethereal, other-worldly, composed aspects of Jesus. And yet the Jesus we meet in the Gospels is not always serene, his emotions held masterfully in check. Nowhere is this more movingly portrayed than on the night of his betrayal and arrest. After celebrating Passover, the grand Hebrew story of exile and restoration, Jesus and his friends take a late-night stroll in the garden called Gethsemane. There, as he prepares himself for the sacrifice he is about to make, Jesus asks, even begs, his Father three times for some alternative course. Far from the unflinching automaton he can sometimes be portrayed as, Jesus is filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Having asked his dearest friends to wait with him and pray during this his darkest hour, he expresses such sadness and loneliness when they fall asleep: “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matt 26:40). More than sadness, we can sense his frustration and annoyance at their abandoning him for sleep. Scott Peck once noted that one of the chief reasons for his trusting the Gospels was their all-too-real description of Jesus. In his agnostic days, before reading them, he had assumed that they were simply works of hagiography, exaggerated accounts of this mythic holy man, invented by those of his followers committed to creating a cult of personality around him. However, when Peck first read the texts themselves, he was astonished to discover that the Jesus in their pages was nothing like the Romanesque icons he had previously seen. Jesus was richer, more textured, more authentically human than any invented folk hero could possibly be. In fact, Peck went on to conclude that the Gospels must be true. If they were inventions by his followers, those followers would have invented a better messiah than the one found in the Gospels—they would have invented a flawless messiah, one who never showed fear, sadness, or anger. That he isn’t portrayed as Super-Jesus was proof enough that the Gospel writers were faithful reporters, not cunning inventors.”
Frost, Michael; Hirsch, Alan. ReJesus: Remaking the Church in Our Founder’s Image [Revised & Updated Edition] (pp. 60-61). 100 Movements Publishing. Kindle Edition.
I’ll send the next image anon…