8 JÉSUS IN ART AND LITERATURE works echo a medieval theological sensibility, in which questions of death and suffering occupy a central place. The Renaissance that came from Italy transposed ancient settings and physical rules into religious scenes. The development of this profane beauty impassioned artists, perhaps to the point of exceeding the bounds of devotion and losing itself in aesthetic delight. Indeed, in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation again posed the question about graphic representations of the Divine Persons and about their role in popular piety. The use of images clashed, once more, with accusations of idolatry. This produced great distrust of images, particularly of divine representations which were thought to encourage superstition. The Church made a new pronouncement on this thorny subject during the Council of Trent, which was convened in 1545. The assembled bishops affirmed that one can “draw great benefit” from the “legitimate use of images” that can “instruct and strengthen the people in the articles of faith” and be “useful to uninstructed people.” This didactic role of the image also concerned the depiction of Christ. Consequently, complete freedom was given to artists and to those who commissioned them to produce painted or sculpted images representing Christ, the saints, and the Blessed Virgin, whose cult had just been reaffirmed. This explains the multiplication, from the late 16th century on, of depictions of the Christ Child on his Mother’s knees: Nativity, Adoration of the Magi or of the Shepherds, Holy Family, Virgin with Child, Rest during the Flight into Egypt. From the four canonical Gospel artists took episodes from the life of Christ, sometimes supplemented by accounts from the apocryphal gospels, which have the peculiar feature of emphasizing the childhood of Christ and feed one stream of the Christian imagination. We owe to them, for example, the presence of the ox and the ass that warm the Infant Christ with their breath in Nativity scenes. These iconographic sources are combined of course with the artist’s own inventiveness and the patron’s preference. This turbulent history can be glimpsed through the depictions of Christ that centuries of art history have made available to us. They are legion and are reproduced in all mediums. Mosaics, paintings, sculptures, engravings, and stained-glass windows, from the first eras of Christianity down to the present, though uniformly material, suggest the many subtle tones of the human vision of an incarnate God. These images of Christ, whether he is powerful, suffering, or a child, carry believers and non-believers into the depths of an intimate reflection. They are also the historical testimony of more than twenty centuries of artistic creation relying on the biblical account. The Church, the chief patron of artists and a powerful one, thus assured the vivacity of Christ’s image; its permanence did not keep it from being reimagined perpetually. Our contemporary society has a bulimic relation to images; they can sometimes tire our eyes or blunt our ability to admire them. This in no way detracts, I think, from the power of these images. This book collects an admirable florilegium of them. The Carrying of the Cross El Greco (1541–1614) Ca. 1602 Oil on canvas, 42.5 x 31 in Madrid, Prado Museum