By Beth Williamson
This Very brief advent decodes the foremost subject matters, indicators, and logos present in Christian paintings: the Eucharist, a dead ringer for the Crucifixion, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, previous and New testomony narrative imagery, and iconography. It additionally explores the theological and historic heritage of Christian imagery, from the devotional works of the Medieval and Renaissance sessions, to the twenty-first century. Williamson makes use of examples from, among others, Cimabue, Michelangelo, and Rosetti. She concludes by means of outlining the co-existence in modern 'post-Christian' tradition of the intentionally debatable works of artists similar to Andres Serrano and Chris Ofili, along the consciously devotional works of these reminiscent of Eric Gill and Peter Blake.
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Extra resources for Christian Art: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Her eyes are closed, and her pale face, drained of colour 40 Since the Baptist was already dead by the time Christ was cruciﬁed, and could not therefore have been present at the Cruciﬁxion, his presence in this image is a departure from the historical narrative, and must serve a symbolic rather than a merely representative function. This is further indicated by the lamb at his feet. John the Baptist had described Christ as ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1: 29). The lamb here holds a cross, to make it plain that this creature is a symbolic reference to Christ himself.
The book that he holds is a common identifying attribute of a prophet, and identiﬁes John as the last of the Old Testament prophets, who heralded Christ’s coming. The Baptist’s pointing gesture draws attention to Christ and indicates that the words inscribed on the panel, spoken by John, refer to Christ: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’. These words, from the Gospel of John (3: 30), have been interpreted in different ways, but seem to indicate that we are to be aware that the Cruciﬁxion is the middle point between the era of the Old Testament, represented by John the Baptist, and the New Testament, represented by Christ.
Christ is represented as a teacher and preacher, a leader, a healer, a judge, as well as a new-born baby and as a dead man. Artistic representations also go beyond his death, to show his resurrection, and his post-resurrection apparitions to his followers, as detailed in the Gospels. However, the textual sources focus more heavily on some areas and events in Christ’s life than on others. Jaroslav Pelikan has pointed out that the Gospels give us information about fewer than 100 days in Christ’s life, but that for the last few days of his life they provide ‘a detailed, almost hour-by-hour scenario’.