A small but exciting show called “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” moved from the Paris Louvre, the show’s first venue, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and subsequently to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The exhibit highlights Rembrandt’s images of Christ as we tend to him understand him now–not as a remote divinity but as the ideal human being, a profoundly complex and gentle man.
One of the works in the Rembrandt exhibit is owned by BYU. According to Bridgette D. Tuckfield writing in BYU|Today (Fall 2011):
Ed Lind (BS ’81), interim director of BYU’s Museum of Art, was dubious when he first heard that a woman in California had a portrait of Christ by Rembrandt to donate to BYU. It was sitting under her bed.
“We told [her representative] that we would love to see it,” Lind says, “which is what we tell everyone. But usually people just have a print or something else.” The representative brought the painting to Provo wrapped in a blanket. “As soon as he came in, set it on a table, and took the blanket off–it was stunning,” says Lind. “We could tell it was the real deal.”
The work, titled Head of Christ, is a Circle of Rembrandt painting done by one of Rembrandt’s associates, though Rembrandt likely worked on it as well. The painting is notable . . . because the artist selected an ethnically Jewish young man to sit as the model. The Savior is portrayed with dark hair and dark eyes instead of the traditional idealized European features.
I particularly like Tuckfield’s last sentence, “The Savior is portrayed with dark hair and dark eyes instead of the traditional idealized European features.” I would add “northern European features.”
I would much prefer to see Rembrandt’s version of Christ over those of Carl Bloch, which are currently very popular in LDS Church circles.