Without contemporary accounts of Jesus' appearance, artists through the ages have been free to create many images of him--images that sometimes reflect the spiritual world of the artist and other times the desires of the patron or the needs of the spectator. In this magnificently illustrated book, Neil MacGregor traces the life of Christ and the development of Christian culture in the work of artists from different times and diverse cultures. Copublished with the National Gallery, London
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None of Jesus' contemporaries made written descriptions of his appearance. Nevertheless, his image is among the most frequently and variously rendered--and perhaps the most instantly recognizable--of all the characters of Western history. Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art is a richly illustrated survey of the ways that artists have imagined Jesus' appearance. Brief essays by Neil MacGregor, director of London's National Gallery, and Erika Langmuir Obe, a noted art historian, elaborate the following notion, from the book's introduction: "The greatest artists, in representing the life of Christ, did something even more difficult: they explored the fundamental experiences of every human life. Pictures about Jesus's childhood, teachings, sufferings and death are--regardless of our beliefs--in a very real sense pictures about us." Seeing Salvation offers pointed insights regarding the relationship between artists' representations of Christ and the evolution of Christian culture. This sweeping account of centuries' worth of history is enlivened by a wealth of detailed observations--such as MacGregor's essay about the ways that Michelangelo's several sculptures of the pieta record the artist's personal evolution of faith and doubt. Still, the most extraordinary things in Seeing Salvation are not its arguments but its beautifully printed illustrations of paintings and sculptures in galleries, private homes, catacombs, market stalls, and churches around the world. --Michael Joseph GrossFrom the Inside Flap:
The story of the life and death of Christ has shaped Western European art for nearly two thousand years, providing a framework for great artists to address universal questions of love, hope, heroism, and suffering. Since there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus' appearance, his image in Western art has been able to reflect variously the spiritual world of the artist, the desires of the patron, or the needs of the spectator. In this magnificently illustrated book, Neil MacGregor considers the many ways in which artists, at different times and from different cultures, have presented the story of Christ and explains how the likeness of Jesus that we now all recognize has emerged.Focusing on images of Christ in high art and popular craft throughout the world- in galleries, churches, museums, private homes, catacombs, and market stalls-MacGregor traces the life of Christ and the development of Christian culture since his birth. He shows how some of the works reveal not only society's view of Christ and of itself but also the inner spiritual turmoil of their creators. MacGregor points to Michelangelo's successive sculptures of the Pietà, for example, in which the artist left a record of the evolution of his faith and of the anguish and doubt that colored his last days. In the same way, Rembrandt's reworking of his etching of the Crucifixion reveals not just his changing understanding of the event but also his darkening view of life. Throughout, MacGregor argues that images of Christ can still speak powerfully to believers and nonbelievers and that they are as important to us now as a way of understanding our lives as they were when they were made.
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