Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Real Face of Christ

I have recently been drawn to various depictions of the Savior Jesus Christ especially those claimed to be the most accurate images of his face. It's been spiritually uplifting for me to compare the similarities of these images and learn the stories behind the artists and their artwork. Here are the four I found to be most fascinating. At the bottom of this blog post I share with you my thoughts and feelings about the real face of Christ.

"Christ in Red Robe" by Del Parson
This image of the Savior, Jesus Christ, wearing a red robe as prophesied he will at the Second Coming.

According to the artist Del Parson, the painting was commissioned by the Church, but he worked with the curriculum department to create a painting suitable for their needs. There were several revisions in the process to develop a picture suitable for their needs. This portrait is widely used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. This was also his first portrait of Jesus.

After the death of his wife Joycel and youngest daughter in a 1978 car accident, Parson felt inspired to begin painting primarily religious subjects.The LDS Church has commissioned Parson to paint over 240 works.

"Prince of Peace" by Akiane Kramarik

Akiane Kramarik is primarily a self-taught painter. She began displaying her gift with art at the age of four and painted this portrait of Jesus Christ at the young age of eight. She states that God has given her the visions and abilities to create her artwork, which is unusual for her family, considering both her parents were atheist at the time (they later converted to Christianity on account of Kramarik's paintings and visions). According to Kramarik, her art is inspired by her visions of heaven, and her personal connection with God.

Scientific Rendering "the Real Face of Jesus Christ" (as featured on the History Channel) by Ray Downing

The artists worked to pull impressions from the Shroud of Turin, the famed blood-stained linen that many believe was the burial cloth of the crucified Christ. The ancient shroud contains a faint impression of the front and back of a human body, along with blood, dirt and water stains from its age.

Ray Downing, president of Studio Macbeth who oversaw this project says "Jesus was more than just a spiritual event. Studying the Shroud to produce the 3D face of Jesus, we encountered scientific evidence that the resurrection was a real physical event that happened in a moment of time 2,000 years ago. The Shroud of Turin provides actual scientific proof that Jesus rose from the dead".

It was scientifically proven that that the image impressed upon the Shroud of Turin was done so by a powerful amount of light that pierced through the fabric, imprinting a permanent image of Jesus' face.

Cutting-edge modern skills were required to pull an accurate flesh and blood face from a piece of fabric so old. The year-long project culminated with a team of graphic artists using the newest technology to create a computer-generated image.

One of the main problems -- the condition of the shroud -- provided key clues. The team realized there were distortions in the image on the shroud because the fabric had been wrapped around the body.

"The solution was to realize that the shroud wasn't hanging on the wall – it was wrapping a corpse. That's the crux of the problem -- the face is hidden in there," said Downing, who has also used computers to create images of Abraham Lincoln.

"By imitating those distortions we could take the image and put it back into that shape and figure out what the face looked like … it gave us a blueprint," he added.

One the blueprint was formed, the computer artists started the recreation. Of course, there were limitations to what they could do with what they had.

"Inevitably, you do run out of information," Downing said. "You can't see the pores in a linen fabric. There are no eyebrows. It doesn't take a lot of guesswork to assign pores and skin texture to a model, to know that the man did have eyebrows and to provide them. At some point, you do have to leave the realm of actual information and use experience."

"Christ's Image" by Heinrich Hofmann

Heinrich Hofmann (March 19, 1824-June 23, 1911) was a German painter and the uncle of the German painter Ludwig von Hofmann.

Heinrich Hofmann was one of the pre-eminent painters of his time. The Sunday Strand – at that time a very popular British magazine– describes him as the most influential contemporary German painter. In the beginning of 1854, his beloved mother died. He was deeply moved by her death and it inspired him to paint his first large religious work: Burial of Christ.

More and more he devoted himself to the genre of religious paintings. The religious body of Hofmann’s work has gained in importance in the past years. One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of his artwork is the publication of his paintings and pencil drawings depicting the life of Jesus Christ in The Second Coming of Christ, the interpretation of the Bible by Paramhansa Yogananda, the teacher of Yoga.

President Monson who presides as over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a portrait of the Savior as painted by Heinrich Hofmann hanging in his office.

My Thoughts

From the glorified images of the resurrected Christ to his last moments in pain and suffering while in mortality - these images all portray the unwavering love our Savior has for us. I have concluded that to know his real face isn't to know him at all. If we want to know the Savior then we must learn of him and try to be like him. When we feel charity and compassion for others then we know the Savior. To know that he loved us enough to freely sacrifice himself so that we could have eternal life and that he suffered our pain and sins so that we could be forgiven through him is a testimony of his unconditional love for us as well our Father in Heavens'.

In the most recent General Conference I loved the words of Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy. In his talk about the atonement he said,

"Late one night lying in a hospital bed, this time as a patient and not as a physician, I read those verses over and over again. I pondered: “How is it done? For whom? What is required to qualify? Is it like forgiveness of sin? Do we have to earn His love and help?” As I pondered, I came to understand that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes."

It is my prayer and testimony that all who come unto him will be perfected through him. To feel his love and live with him again is worth all the trials, pain, suffering and hard work that we encounter in this life. Let us show our love for him by trying to be more like him and standing as a witness of him at all times and in all things and in all places. That is the greatest gift we can give him. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.