Not enough to do any research, but just kind of wondered. Now I know:
To avoid creative interpretation, the church dictated that depictions of Jesus follow very strict guidelines: “His hair is the color of ripe hazelnut, parted on the top in the manner of the Nazirites, falling straight to the ears but curling further below, with blond highlights fanning off his shoulders.”
That is thought to be an eye-witness description of Jesus of Nazareth, written in an apocryphal document called the Lentulus Letter.
Sounds like a description of a person based on what a hair dresser cares about. Nothing at all about his facial features, his physique, or anything else that’d help a person pick him out of a line up. “He had nice hair.” Yeah, great. Nice hair is so important for a prophet. If it’s too scraggly he’d just look nuts…
I quoted the above from an article advertising the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its new feature called “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” which will be available there until October.
Rembrandt’s decision to use a Jewish model (it’s assumed) for some of these pieces was met with criticism at the time and his efforts are admired today for the realistic depictions of a range of emotions – something other artists were neglecting when painting their own European-looking Jesuses, apparently.
I’m not enough of an art snob to know who painted what and looking at the images available in their slideshow, I know that if I didn’t know it was meant to be Jesus I wouldn’t have assumed it was Jesus depicted. Too many years inundated with the kindly European chap holding kids on his lap, petting lambs or staring up at invisible Dad while nailed to a torture implement.
So, if Philadelphia is where you are, or where you’ll soon be heading, stop at the Museum and get a little culture. I’ll be wishing I could do the same.