To paint Christ from life… It is this puzzling idea, that a picture of Christ could be painted “from life,” which prompted this exhibition, Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus. The face, physiognomy, physique, outline, even silhouette of a person, a legend and his memory… Rembrandt’s portrayal of Christ in silhouette in Pilgrims at Emmaus (Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André) poses the problem of the mystery of Christ’s resurrection whilst reminding us that there is no first-hand description of his actual appearance. Rembrandt discarded the time-worn, formulaic image of Christ.
In his quest to revitalize Christian imagery, Rembrandt rejected the predictable majesty of traditional portrayals of Christ. He was interested in Christ the man himself, and how his family and the crowds to whom he preached perceived him. Rembrandt seems to have been unconcerned by contemporary theological quarrels. He was a Protestant, in a Protestant republic welcoming all religions, and it is this famous religious tolerance in Holland in the 17th century that lies behind the works you are about to see.