6 JÉSUS IN ART AND LITERATURE In 1995, one of my very first jobs, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Strasbourg, was to tell the story of Jesus during the Christmas season to children aged five through seven, through four episodes from his life illustrated by works exhibited in its permanent collection. This visit, which never went over forty-five minutes, the maximum attention span that one could expect from such a young audience, invariably started with The Visitation, a small-size painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), followed by an exquisite Adoration of the Shepherds by Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1430/1435–ca. 1493/1500), then an immense Adoration of the Magi painted on canvas by Bartolomeo Biscaino (ca. 1632–ca. 1657), only to conclude with a delicate Flight into Egypt by Claude Gellée, also called Le Lorrain (1600–1682). Besides this simple yet evocative anecdote, what struck me at the time was to see how the figure of Jesus, his physical representation, had little importance, because all that mattered was the story. The Christ Child might have been chubby or skinny, and have had blond, brown, or even red hair, and that would not have affected at all the emotions felt by the viewers. To my great astonishment, this idea was reinforced one day when I asked a small group of children what strategy the painter Biscaino had found to make us recognize immediately the Child Jesus surrounded by his famous relatives and one of them exclaimed, “That’s easy: he has a light-bulb head!” After his initial surprise, by reflecting carefully on it, the very young spectator had immediately understood that that luminous halo symbolized in an incandescent way Christ’s holiness! Thus, from the oral traditions to the Scriptures and then to the literary texts, the image of Jesus was carried and formed by an enormous number of artists whose imaginations nourished each other, in order to design but also to produce these countless portraits and other emblematic scenes from the Savior’s life. After the fourth century a.d. the artistic representation of Christ often reflected idealized typologies; the result was an infinitesimal number of physiognomies, always close to an Oriental type, and historians today agree in describing the physique of these Christs as of a “Syro-Palestinian” type. Not until the Renaissance was the convention of a Caucasian type of Jesus Christ established, which today we would even describe as “European.” Jesus in art EDWART VIGNOT PREFACE Clirist'