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THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST.

"Signor mio, Gesù Cristo, Dio verace, Or fu sì fatta la sembianza vostra ?"

-DANTE, “Parad.” xxxi. 107.

SIR

IR WYKE BAYLISS, in his “Rex Regum," has again opened

the question whether we possess any authentic record of the personal appearance of the Saviour of Mankind, dating from the days when He lived on earth as a man among men. The question has been touched upon in many treatises, from the “Liber de Imaginibus of J. Dallaeus (1642) down to Mr. Heaphy's recent work on “The Likeness of Christ." * In my “Life of Christ, as represented in Art” (1894), I have fully stated the arguments which convince me, as they have convinced many abler and more learned inquirers, that all genuine traditions respecting the human aspect of the Lord of Glory perished eighteen centuries ago. This conclusion Sir Wyke Bayliss impagns, and has recently published his arguments in favour of the view that there is a certain verisimilitude common to all the likenesses of Christ, and that this has been derived from almost contemporaneous pictures.

It would take me much too long, nor is it at all necessary, to enter into all the author's contentions; but I would say at once that he seems to me entirely to confuse the real issue when he speaks of pictures of Christ as “a sham,” or “a deception,” or a misleading

a delusion, unless they are directly derived from trustworthy descriptions or paintings. Ninety-nine out of every hundred painters would say at once that they only aimed at embodying an idea, not at furnishing the realistic reproduction of a supposed likeness. It is true that likenesses may be, and have been, preserved of men who lived long centuries before the Christian era ; that portraiture was common in the days of the Apostles; that the early converts were filled with intense devotion to their Lord; and that antecedent probabilities would have pointed to some attempt having been made to

* See, too, Art Journal, 1861 ; Quarterly Review, Oct. 1867.

*

preserve His features, had there not been (as there were) powerful influences in the opposite direction. But when Sir Wyke Bayliss proceeds to state that the disciples began at once to engrave likenesses of Christ's face and figure, he assumes for the rude outlines inlaid with gold-leaf on chalices and patens a very disputable age and trustworthiness, and he igrores whole masses of opposing evidence.

He is, moreover, entirely mistaken in his supposition that “the only objections to the likeness are of a theological character." On the contrary, they are purely historical, and do not appeal either “exclusively,” or at all, “ to a particular phase of religious sentiment.”

It is needless to allude to the so-called “ Veronica Sudarium " at Rome; the statue at Paneas attributed to the gratitude of the woman with the issue of blood ;* the “Volto Santo " at Lucca; the “ ambino" of the Ara Cæli; the likeness which legend says was sent by Christ to Abgar, King of Edessa ; + that which Pilate is said to have sent to Rome; # the emerald vernide of the Vatican, and all other pictures whether of miraculous origin (0óteUKTOL) or attributed to Nicodemus or St. Peter or St. Luke :—for none of them have even the dimmest fraction of historical validity or authorisation. We must also set aside the description given by John the Damascene in the eighth century ; $ the spurious letter of Pablius Lentulus to the Senate quoted by St. Anselm, and not older than the twelfth century; and the description in Greek by Epiphanius Monachus, || all of which are either purely imaginative or are downright forgeries. When we come to supposed representations of Christ in the Catacombs we find only a very dubious mosaic conjecturally ascribed to the first century by Aringhi, but unlike other pictures, and most probably not even intended to represent our Lord at all: the famous imago clipeata, now almost obliterated, in the catacomb of St. Callixtus ; and that with a cruciform nimbus in the cubiculum of St. Cecilia. Sir Wyke Bayliss thinks that the Callixtine picture was painted by some one who had actually seen Christ; but there is no proof that it is even intended for Christ at all, nor that it is earlier in date than the fourth century. I No decisive argument can be based on such utterly uncertain and disputable data. “Les monuments,” says Didron, “sont de dates très contestées et très contestables." ** We have the high authority of De Rossi for the statement that iconographic pictures of Christ are extremely rare in the catacombs, and that the symbolic treatment was

* Euseb. “H. E." vii. 13. Sozomen. “H. E." y, 21.
+ Euseb. “H. E.”' i. 13. Evagrius, " H. E." iv. 27.
† According to the Carpocratians. Jren."c. Haer." i. 25.

John Damasc, “Opp." i. 34. Niceph. “H. E." i. 40. | See Winer, Realwörterb. i. 570.

It is, to say the least, a very singular fact-unique, I believe, in any professed picture of Christ--that he is here represented in an eromis with breast and shoulder quite naked. It is a little difficult to believe that even a fourth-century painter would have thus depicted the Saviour. See Garrucci, “Storia dell'Arte Cristiana," ii. 34.

“ Icon. Chrét.” p. 254.

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absolutely predominant. Of the famous portrait in the crypt of St. Cecilia, which is of Byzantine type, he says that it deserves no consideration because it is “di età assai tarda," and perhaps not earlier than the ninth century.* As for the mere rough outlines on gems and glass pastes, they cannot for a moment be dignified with the name of likenesses, and, like those on enamels and mosaics and frescoes, they differ from each other in almost every particular, except that the hair is usually parted in the middle. There is in the Vatican a portrait on ivory which De Rossi considers to be “indisputably the most ancient of all representations of our Lord ”—but except in the manner in which the hair is parted, it is absolutely unlike the Callixtine picture. Many of the beautiful illustrations given by Sir Wyke Bayliss exhibit faces wholly dissimilar from each other in type and expression ; and when Glückselig attempted to reproduce an authentic likeness of Christ from the features common to many various forms, the result was a ghastly failure.f In the fifth century St. Augustine (d. A D. 430) wrote that even in his days “the aspect of the Lord's humanity, though it must have been a definite aspect,f yet innumerabiliuin imaginationum diversitate variatur et fingitur.He regards these pictures as only indicating “ quod sibi animus fingit, longe fortasse aliter quam se res habuit.

In the ninth century Photius § writes that the Greeks, the Romans, the Indians, the Ethiopians and other peoples all varied the semblance of Christ into conformity to their own national type. Not to dwell on the absolute antagonism between the ugly repulsiveness of the Byzantine type common in the Eastern Church, and the radiant beauty of the Greek type, or the fine dignity of the Roman type, all great painters have chosen and varied their own ideal. Many modern writers -Ammon, Winkelmann, Wessenberg, &c.—have remarked on this divergence of the ideals chosen to depict our Lord in Christian Art.

It is strange that a writer in the nineteenth century should so con-fidently argue in favour of the authenticity of any likeness of the. Saviour, when it is so well known that there was a marked difference between the Greek and Latin Fathers on so elementary a question as whether He was, in His human aspect, beautiful or unlovely. In answer to the taunt of the heathen Celsus that, by the common report of his day, Jesus was “small, ill-favoured, and ignoble," Origen (d. A.D. 253) admitted that, arguing from prophecy, it might indeed be supposed that He was ill-favoured (dvozione), but not ignoble (ayevris), and that there was no certain evidence that He was short of stature (uukpós). Comparing Is. liii. 1-3 with Ps. xiv. 3-4 he believed that “the changing aspects of Christ's body appeared to each one, according to the capacity

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+ “Christusarchäologiz,” 1863, § Ep Ixiv.

* See“ Roma Sotteranea," ii. 128, 359, 361.
* Aug. “ De Trin." viii. 4.

See Augusti, “ Christl. Archäol.' xii. 247 (1831).
VOL. LXXIV.

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of the spectator"—in other words, that the appearance of Christ depended entirely on the subjective impression, and that His true semblance was that in which the three Apostles saw Him when He was transfigured.* Can there be any more decisive proof that no known genuine likeness of Christ existed in the third century, when Origen could not appeal to decisive tradition, but only to the apparently opposite passages of Isaiah and David even on so general a question as His human beauty or the reverse ? It is obvious that inferences from these prophetic quotations were the only grounds on which the Fathers had to rely. Justin Martyr says that "He appeared without beauty.”ť St. Clement of Alexandria (f. A.D. 203) says that “He passed through the world unlovely in the flesh, and without form, thereby teaching us to look at the unseen and incorporate”; and that “He used a commonplace (evtela) form of body," and was

base in aspect.” | Tertullian again (A.D. 212) declares that “His body was devoid not only of heavenly lustre, but even of human nobleness," and that “ He was not even pleasing in appearance.” He rebukes with indignation those who painted Him as attractive in appearance, and asks, “Quid destrius necessarium delecus fidei ?Now, if these ancient Fathers were right, clearly the traditional likeness, which is full of nobleness and charm, cannot have been authentic. If in those early centuries the Christians who were “men of light and leading ” could not point to any likeness which would have put an end to all controversies, no such picture of any acknowledged value could have existed. They had no data to which they could refer except prophetic passages which seemed to be opposite in import.

St. Jerome (d. A.D. 420) argues that there must have been something starry” in our Lord's appearance, or else the Apostles would not have accepted Him at once, nor would those who were sent to arrest Him have fallen to the ground ; $ and St. Augustine says that He must have been beautiful as an infant, beautiful on earth, beautiful in Heaven. But these Fathers only confirm their opinion of what was most fitting by adducing such passages as “thou art fairer than the children of men.” Augustine, though he bad (as we have said) seen“ innumerable” fancy pictures of Christ, goes so far as to say qua fuerit Ille facie penitus ignoramus." Now St. Jerome, when he lived in Rome, had been a constant visitor to the Catacombs, and had also spent many, years in Asia Minor and in Palestine; and St. Augustine had lived in Rome, and Milan, and Carthage, and Hippo. Had there been among the Christians of Italy, or of Africa, or of Asia Minor, any picture whatever of Christ which they regarded as being in the remotest degree traditional and authentic, they could not fail to have known of it, and to have referred to it. Can we in the

Orig. c. Cels. vi. 75, 76.

+ “Dial. c. Tryph,” 14, 36. Clein. Alex. "Strom.” iii. 17, § 103 ; ii. 5, $ 22 ; vi. 17, § 151. “Paed.” iii. 1. § Jer. in Matt. i. 8. “Ad Principiam," 14. Aug. "de Trin.” viii. 4, 5; but in Ps. cxxvii. he seems to take a different view.

nineteenth century pretend to know more than they did about & question of contemporary historic fact ?

It may be at once conceded that we should not have expected that Christians would so completely lose every vestige of tradition as to so broad an issue as the beauty or the absence of beauty in the human form of Him whom they passionately loved and adored as "the Lord of Life and all the worlds." But the fact that so it was is as easily explicable as it is historically certain.

The non-existence of genuine pictures was due to the circumstance that to the early Christians, for at least three centuries, it was generally regarded as irreverent to depict the semblance of One whom they regarded always as their Eternal and Divine and glorified Lord. All the early Jewish disciples would, of course, have looked upon any picture of Christ as a violation of the second Commandment; and their Gentile converts, surrounded on every side by idols which they abhorred, shared the same view. For three centuries at least in the Catacombs the predominant references to Christ are frankly symbolic, indirectly allusive, typical, or purely ideal. On the splendid sarcophagi of the centuries after Constantine He is still set forth as a lamb, or as the Good Shepherd, or as a radiant youth. Clement of Alexandria told the Christians only to use symbols on their rings, such as the fish, the anchor, and the dove. As late as the Council of Elvira (Eliberis), after A.D. 310, a canon was passed that there should not be pictures in churches, lest " what is worshipped and adored should be depicted on walls." The learned and large-hearted Eusebius of Cæsarea (A.D. 326) all but rebuked the Empress Constantia for wishing to possess a picture of Christ, saying that in His eternal form He could not be painted, and that pictures of His human aspect“ were not to be found in churches, and were forbidden among Christians.” The pure in heart (he says) see God; and if the Empress wished for a likeness of Christ, “what better painter can there be than the Word of God Himself ?”. In A.D. 402 Epiphanius, in a church in Palestinė, near Bethel, contemptuously tore down a hanging " which bore an image, as it were, of Christ, or of some saint,” regarding it as “a source of offence unworthy of the Church of Christ.” Even Paulinus of Nola (d. A.D. 431), whose innovations had more to do than anything else with the introduction of figures into churches, yet expressly abstained from representing Christ, except as “a snowy lamb standing under a bloodstained cross,” giving as his reason for this that “the works of our hands cannot contain Him whom the whole world contains not." It was not till the days of the Trullan, or Quini-Sext Council (A.D. 692), that Christians were bidden no longer to paint Christ under the symbol of a lamb, but in human form-κατά τον ανθρώπινον χαρακτήρα. Quoted in the Acts of the Second Council of Nice (A.D. 787). Migne

• Patrol. Græc.” xx, 1546.

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