Saturday, July 30, 2011
Jesus the Jew
When I was in my twenties I gave an art reproduction of a Rembrandt painting to my father. I knew he appreciated The Supper at Emmaus, so I did the work of matting and framing myself. When he died seven years ago it was one of just a few of his personal items which I kept and it now hangs on my study wall.
I have seen the original in the Louvre in Paris and it will soon be in Philadelphia for a major exhibit of Rembrandt's work called Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/409.html.
There has been a fair amount of speculation about the artist's relationship with the Jewish community. He did work for Protestant and Roman Catholic clients, as well as illustrating a book for a Jewish rabbi. Some scholars suggest that a number of his biblical subjects, including some of the the depictions of Jesus, used Jewish models, perhaps Jewish acquaintances. I like the notion that this great artist was at ease in the company of Jews and used them in his paintings but no one knows for sure. There is a sense of honesty and directness in these works which goes beyond the conventions of the day for depicting Jesus, the Christ.
Does it matter one way or another? Can you see Jesus as the Jewish peasant in this painting? Does Jesus as the peasant bring you closer to who he was an is? Does art just leave you cold?