My birthday is at the very end of September. But September 1st you better believe I’m shaking my children by the shoulders yelling in their face, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH!!” Raise your hand if you can relate. I see you.
None of us are more deserving of a month-long celebration than Jesus Christ. So, today I bring you… Jesus paintings (please read dramatically with a theatrical sweeping arm motion as you bow and walk backwards. Thank you.)
First up is The Transfiguration by Raphael. It was the last piece of art he completed before his death, and in fact it was beside his bed when he died. (Talk about being married to your work!) Before I read up on this painting, I tried to guess who was who. I got Jesus correct (haha) and the disciples (left to right: James, Peter, John. John’s blonde curls are always a giveaway.) But I mixed the prophets up. I guessed Moses was on the left, but the internet says that’s Elijah. I can’t figure out why. The guy on the left looks more Moses-y to me, and nowhere can I find an explanation on why art historians are so certain Elijah is on the left. The bottom half is much busier. It features the possessed boy that Jesus will heal, the rest of the disciples, and some randos. Judas is lurking in the dark, as usual. Go figure. (Get it? No? Then let’s transition to our next piece…)
Next is Head of Christ by Rembrandt. Look, nobody really knows what Jesus looked like, but we can speculate. And we should assume he didn’t look like this. But I think we should throw Rembrandt a bone. In the olden days people were just painting based on what they saw when they were out and about at Starbucks or Costco. Rembrandt based this portrait off a Jewish model, so that’s something, right? And it’s a lovely painting. Not everyone could pull off brown on brown, with brown hair and brown eyes, but Rembrandt does. And I bet Jesus did too.
Finally, if we’re going to talk about Jesus at Christmas, we need a nativity. We need baby Jesus. How sweet and precious is this picture of Mary (practically a baby herself!) worshipping her newborn. Putting aside the fact that nobody told her how bad breastfeeding would hurt, and just praising her Savior. I love how Jesus’ pillow acts as a halo, and it might just be my imagination, but it looks like the cracks in the wall are making a halo around Mary. Great nativity creativity, Barrocci! The animals are looking on, Joseph is presumably confirming what the shepherds already know, and Jesus’ fat little baby cheeks are rosy and kissable. Could we ask for a dreamier representation of the first Christmas?