Friday, December 7, 2012

Faces of Jesus

I've always found the Minneapolis Institute of Art to be overwhelming, and if you asked me, I would say I greatly prefer smaller museums, such as the Museum of Russian Art.

But now that I'm an empty-nester, I've taken to visiting a museum each weekend for a more limited viewing, and so have spent just an hour or two at the MIA on a couple of different occasions. This is an amount of time I can do without becoming overwhelmed and exhausted by all of the visual stimulation.

Last weekend I checked out the European 12th–16th-century paintings, many of which have religious themes. I couldn't help noticing the various ways the Christ child was depicted.

First was this small statue. I didn't get the sculptor's name or its provenance, but I was amused by the fact that the baby Jesus is standing on the heads of children.

Wooden painted sculpture of a young child standing on disembodied heads of smaller children
Okay, I know they're supposed to be cherubim, and that I'm blissfully unaware of how that's symbolically appropriate. But it's still funny.

Next was a madonna and child where Jesus appears to be a middle-aged, blond Jackie Mason.

Close up of madonna and child
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Madonna and Child with Grapes, 1537

Get ready for the next one, because Jackie Mason is good-looking compared to this rendition of Jesus:

Close up of madonna and child
Nicola di Maestro Antonio (di Ancona), Madonna and Child Enthroned, c. 1490

They're either aliens or the painter is one of the 20th century illustrators who intentionally imbue distortion and disturbance into every image. Check out Mary's hand!

This earlier work, from Florence, is closer to the look of Eastern religious icons. The flatter style is more harmonious with the overall lack of realism. But it's still amusing that Jesus is rendered with adult proportions, in miniature:

Close up of madonna and child
Nardo di Cione, Standing Madonna with Child, 1350-1360

It made me think of this ad.

Finally, there was this nightmare composition. Okay, this one isn't a madonna and child, it's Venus and Cupid. Hence the bow in his hand.

Close up of madonna and child
Monogrammist HB with the Griffin's Head, Venus and Cupid, 1529

But what's the deal with the way the end of Cupid's red bow appears to be coming out of Venus's backside? And why are they so darn creepy looking? Had this painter ever seen an unclothed human woman before?

Probably not, I guess.

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

No. 3 makes me think of Mannerism, though the painting is too early (I think) to count as an example. But truly strange.