Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 25.

We give here three examples, which will be sufficient to indicate the character of this epoch. At the same time we reproduce one of those ancient Graeco-Egyptian portraits, which have been discovered in the tombs of Upper Egypt. The one given here (fig. 12) is from the interesting collection of M. Theodore Graf, of Vienna.

This portrait, when compared with that of the Christ of Ravenna, shows the influence of the Semitic type on Byzantine art. The two types are in fact almost identical. The forehead is low, the eyebrows well arched, the nose long and straight, slightly rounded at the lower extremity ; the mouths, with their heavy lips and the symmetrical oval of the faces, are almost identical in both portraits. The hair, beard, and general expression are differently treated. The Graeco-Egyptian painter has more talent than the Christian worker in mosaic.

The vague and slightly astonished expression of the Ravenna Christ (fig. 13) contrasts disadvantageously with that of the Syro-Phoenician nobleman, who has the air of one who knows his own rank.

The excessive largeness of the eyes in this last might be thought due to an exaggeration of the artist but it must be remembered that by immemorial custom, existing in Egypt to the present time, it is usual to give expression to the eyes by painting a dark circle round them. It wall be seen from the foregoing remarks, and from a comparison of the pictures, that the Ravenna Christ is the work of an artist who has adopted and adapted a previously well known type. He is quite uninspired and has not known how to transfuse into his work either the soul of an apostle or the exaltation of the martyr.

At Palermo, in the Church of La Martorana, and in the Palatine Chapel, are to be found two representations of Christ (figs. 14 and 15) attributed to artists of the twelfth century, which in ethnical type are greatly superior to that of Ravenna ; the eyes have not the same vagueness, the lips are more refined, the Semitic contours are modified. It is apparent that the figure on the Holy Shroud shares in many respects the race - characteristics of these heads, without being precisely the same.

Having made this admission, however, it is impossible to deny the overpowering superiority, from an artistic point of view, of the portrait on the Holy Shroud. Being an imprint from nature, the contrast between it and the priestly conception of the Byzantine pictures is accentuated. There can indeed be no question of finding any trace of Byzantine art in the Shroud ; where is there any treatment of feature ? Where is the symmetrical oval of the face, or the hair so neatly and correctly divided over the exact middle of the forehead, or the little supplementary curl which shows itself at the parting. There is in the Byzantine pictures a symmetrical rigidity not without a certain grandeur, but in the Shroud the awful

sublimity shines forth as from a living man, and the features, although stilled by death, have preserved their majesty.

And now that we know the Oriental origin of the man whose body was wrapped in the Holy Shroud of Turin, let us turn our attention again westward.