|Turin shroud positive and negative displaying original colour information|
It is, however, well worth while to review very shortly the various impressions formed in the past of the appearance of Jesus Christ and to consider how much or how little they resemble the actual portrait as revealed by the Holy Shroud.
It would, of course, far exceed the limits of this work to enter into any detailed examination of all the known portraits of Christ. Every artist has considered himself free to treat the sacred features according to his own feeling and imagination ; nevertheless, with a few exceptions, a certain normal type has been maintained, so much so that in gazing at the Holy Shroud we might almost believe that the face here revealed is the archetype on which the world's portraiture has been based. A noble and majestic countenance, the face long and oval, the nose slightly aquiline, the mouth small and well shaped, the beard of moderate length, while the hair, parted in the centre, falls in long locks upon the shoulders. Such is, in truth, the traditional appearance of the Christ as known and exemplified in art. But in this head are also visible such mingled power and sweetness, such depth of suffering conquered, such nobility of peace attained, that as we gaze our hearts are filled with reverence and awe.
The image of Turin bears the mark of no special epoch. For the art critic, as well as for the man of science, it is simply a direct natural representation. If it had been the work of an artist it would have been more correct—the outlines would have been more exact, the contours better defined. Neck and ears would probably have been added, and the shoulders made clearer. The nostrils, the eyes, and the beard would have been more exactly defined. Nor can we believe that an artist living centuries ago would have been content with those poor meshes of hair clotted with blood and sweat.
Is it to the hand of a painter in the pay of some feudal lord, or to the laborious monk member of some arid fraternity that we can attribute the serene majesty which characterizes the features of our Lord on the Shroud of Turin ? How could such a task have been performed without vulgarity ? What imagination, what genius would be required to evoke from the dim shades of antiquity this shadowy but awful form ?
Greek art at its best period was either religious or heroic ; it expressed with perfect nobility of sentiment the serenity and majesty of the gods and heroes of ancient mythology.
By degrees its expression became more human, more formal, and indeed more sensual. We find, however, certain portrait busts of philosophers and poets in which high moral and mental development are powerfully expressed.
If the Greek sculptors had been dealing with the Christ ideal they would doubtless have produced a head as complete and grand as that of the well known Aesculapius ; they would have realized in marble the great miracle-worker, a priest or prophet of God, but they could not have shown us " the Good Shepherd," who cures the body only in order to touch the soul; and they would have had no sympathy for the voluntary victim, humble and lowly, expiating the faults of others. There is no renunciation of self in Greek philosophy. In short, no figure in Greek art is comparable to that of Christ.