The Renaissance of Jesus

A collection of 15th and 16th Century Renaissance era paintings is currently on exhibition in Canberra. I dropped in today to have a look. 99.9% of the paintings have a Christian theme, with the majority depicting Jesus and/or Mary. One of the paintings shows the Circumcision of Jesus, topical as the 1 January is traditionally the feast day of his circumcision.

There is one room that is dedicated to paintings of Mary holding Jesus as a baby.  The sameness of the paintings to me seems to show that there was standard formula in depicting Madonna and Child.

The gallery blurb about the “Madonna and Child” room states:

One of most enduring images in Western art — a constant for more than a thousand years — is that of Mary with the baby Jesus. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the cult of the Virgin saw Mary cast as the Queen of Heaven, the personification of the Church, the Bride of Christ. She is regal, seated formally upon a throne, worshipped as an intermediary through whom humans seek salvation.

To me, the most striking painting is one depicting the Trinity. It caught me with it’s scale and detail.

The majority of the paintings of Jesus as an adult show him being crucified, in line with a ‘Man of Sorrows’ theme of the time it seems. Bizarrely, two of the paintings show John the Baptist as a adult visiting Jesus as a baby. A few others have various saints and art patrons of the day in scenes with Jesus – with artistic license anything is possible.

It is a pretty good show. It is a secular exhibition in a national gallery, but as I walked around and looked at the paintings I could sense the Holy Spirit, so something was happening there today.

Renaissance at the Nationa Gallery of Australia


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