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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Louvre borrows BJU's 'Head of Christ' for special Rembrandt exhibit


With gloved hands, John Nolan carefully held onto the gilded frame of the painting while an assistant clipped the wires that held it in place. When it was free, Nolan slowly lowered the centuries-old artwork into the custom-made crate that will carry it across the sea.

“Head of Christ” is headed from the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery at Heritage Green to the Louvre in Paris for a special exhibit called “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus.”

“It’s a lot of responsibility every time you touch this thing, so you never want to be lax and not feeling like it’s important,” Nolan said.

The artwork, believed to be the work of one of Rembrandt’s students, dates to the mid-17th century and is part of a series of studies completed by the Dutch master and his pupils that redefined the look of Jesus.

“Up until Rembrandt, when artists painted Christ, they painted him as Anglo-Saxon,” Nolan said. “But Rembrandt broke with tradition completely with this series of heads and changed the image of Christ to a Jewish-looking man.”

“Head of Christ” and the seven other works that will compose the centerpiece of the exhibit are all images of the same model, who is believed to have been a man living in the large Jewish community near Rembrandt’s studio. The BJU piece, which the museum acquired in 1963, is the only one of the eight central works to have been painted by a student.

Nolan said the special exhibit is a unique opportunity for these paintings to be viewed together in a way they likely haven’t been since Rembrandt’s lifetime.

“Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” will include 50 total works by Rembrandt and his students. After its three-month showing in Paris, the exhibit will travel to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then the Detroit Institute of Art. “Head of Christ” will return to Greenville in February 2012.

“It’s sort of a feather in our cap as far as a museum of that caliber wanting to borrow something from this little museum in Greenville to include in an exhibit like that,” Nolan said.


Accessed March 29, 2011