Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Shroud Of Christ By Paul Vignon D.Sc (Fr) Part 27.

Of thirteenth century work, however, the classic Christ is undoubtedly the " Beau Dieu " of Amiens (fig. 19). This is the work most admired by M. le Chanoine Chevalier, although he is wrong in comparing it with the Christ of the Holy Shroud. Certainly it is most beautiful—not indeed the beauty of the Grecian type, nor even is it perhaps beautiful in form, but the calm serenity of its expression is of infinite beauty.

We have alluded previously to the haughty impassiveness of the Far-nese Neptune regardless of humanity on his Olympian heights, and there is perhaps some of this god-like indifference in the vague, fixed, far-away look of the " Beau Dieu " of Amiens. There is no pride in this look ; it is the face of one detached, of one who has not known, or has at least forgotten, the very names even of our poor human passions, and who would never sacrifice himself in order to teach us the glorious lessons of suffering.

The chief characteristic of this beautiful head, then, is its impassiveness, but this is no quality of the true Christ. Do we not remember the timid gesture of the woman in the Gospels, who hardly dared to touch the mantle of the Saviour, though He, the Consoler, knew and felt at once what was passing in her heart ? Consider the mouth of the "Beau Dieu."

From such a mouth could come words of an exquisite purity it is true, but not great Truths. It is not the mouth of a master or of a prophet, and in this beautiful head we search vainly for one touch of Divine inspiration, one breath of the Deity.

We think, then, that between the Christ of the Holy Shroud and the " Beau Dieu " of Amiens there is no identity of spirit ; but besides this there is all the difference between the vague mystical expression of the one and the unmistakable look of agony suffered in the other. The dead face of Lirey shows the suffering of the flesh ; the Amiens head is a beautifully sculptured block of marble— marble which has neither bones to break, nerves to suffer, nor blood to shed.

Moreover, between the two figures there is no tie of race. There can be no doubt when we look on the Amiens head, with its straight nose slightly tilted at the tip and sharply cut, that it has been modelled from a man of Northern France. The mouth itself is purely Western in type, the eyebrows also, though they have a touch of mysticism, may be seen among the Flemish people of to-day. The beard is in purely French style ; the like may be met with in the streets of Bourges. There is nothing in all these features to indicate any Semitic or Eastern origin. In a word, the head of Amiens, beautiful as it undoubtedly is, must be considered as the very last in which to find any resemblance to the Divine face imprinted on the Holy Shroud.