|Sinai Icon of|
Copyright © Edward Riojas
There are portraits, and then there are portraits. When faced with images of our Savior, there is a plethora of variations, permutations, and, um, mutations.
I’m not talking about your very favorite painting of Jesus, whether it’s the pleasant one that looks like any Swede in Jerusalem, or that toothy one hanging in the church nursery. I could be writing about any number of images, but this post isn’t going to address copies of the Shroud of Turin. Neither will this be about computer-generated, Neanderthal-like images reconstructed from a period skull.
Oh sure, there is a whole laundry basket-full of various shrouds – each more authentic and more revered than the previous. You know, the Shroud of Edessa, that looks more like a Byzantine cartoon than any human. Then there’s that over-the-top, side-burned image on a shroud connected with the suspect Devotion of the Face of Jesus. We’re not going to talk about those.
|The Sinai Icon realigned|
The two images that we WILL address are a specific Orthodox icon and another unrelated oddity. Both of these probably began with good intentions but, in the end, only caused a great number of face-palms.
The first image of Christ, known as the Sinai Icon of Christ Pantocrator, is seemingly innocuous and only raises an eyebrow if the viewer lingers over the painting. “Raises and eyebrow” is key. The icon attempts the impossible by trying to simultaneously show the Two Natures of Christ. Split the portrait down the middle, flip the facial halves, and you get the idea. Unfortunately, it is impossible – and heretical – to extract either nature, and if that isn’t enough, the resulting expression is either great consternation or constipation – you pick.
|Example of a trifacial Jesus|
Our second example shows what happens when a well intentioned artist obviously didn’t stick around for the Athanasian Creed on Holy Trinity Sunday. The image is so disturbing that the viewer never gets within a stone’s throw of understanding the bizarre attempt at explaining Christ Jesus as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Hey artist!, “[There is] one Son, not three Sons!”
Sometimes, artists fall a tad short, and I am not immune in that regard. These examples, however, simply fall on their faces.