The Face: Jesus in Art
If you like visual art, you'll probably enjoy this DVD even if you aren't a Christian, but if you are a Christian with an interest in art, this will be doubly interesting to you. It is an overview of the way Jesus has been depicted from the early catacomb days to twentieth century depictions, such as Warner Sallman's famous depiction. The Face was originally a PBS program and no one expects a TV program to be extremely thorough, but as an overview, I think it's good. The average viewer may have seen many of the works, but seeing so many organized together is informative and there are apt to be a few new things--for example, how many of us have seen Latin American triple-faced Jesuses?
For me, the most wonderful was a painting I've probably seen a picture of before (I used to enjoy spending lots of time looking at art books) but which, if I had, I'd never really noticed before, namely Chagall's White Crucifixion. It is amazing. Just having The Face bring this painting to my notice made it worth viewing for me. I'd like to think The Face could help do more. I long to see more Christians painting Jesus and other figures and themes from Judeo-Christian tradition, and who knows, maybe seeing this DVD could spark an interest in making religious art in the heart of an artistic young person. I can hope.
About the only problem I had--and it is a very minor one--was that in the final segment they called Hunt's The Light of the World the depiction of Jesus most influential on, if I do not misremember the wording, twentieth century art. I am not sure that is true. It certainly hasn't been reprinted as often as the Sallman's picture and I don't think the people are familiar with it, the way they are, say, DaVinci's Last Supper; I've look at lots of artbooks in my lifetime, and I don't think I'd ever seen it until four or five years ago I've look at lots of artbooks. Something can be influential without the average AuntieSuzanne on the street having heard of it, but I'd like them to have given some support for their statement and they didn't. Anyway, this is still well worth a spot in your Netflix queue.
FWIW, my favorite portrait of Jesus is Rembrandt's Head of Christ, which you can see here or here.
Speaking of art reminds me of something I just found out: the US Postal Service will be releasing a Madonna and Child stamp this year, and, wonder of wonders, it actually says Christmas across the top. (You can see all of this year's choices here.) If you remember, last year there were some complaints about the USPS releasing no Madonna and Child stamp as in years past, or any religious Christmas stamp at all, only a "holiday cookies" stamp. I don't think last year's grumbling had any effect on their decision, as these things are picked well ahead of time; the 2007 lineup--which includes a Madonna and Child--is already selected and viewable on the USPS website. But Christians and tradition-minded people generally can show support of traditional Christmas imagery by requesting the Madonna and Child stamp over the Snowflake or other stamps for your mail this season.