A provocative exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is taking a closer look at the relationship between Rembrandt's art and Judaism. Titled "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus," the exhibit debuted at the Louvre last and will open in Philadelphia on August 3, 2011.
In his introduction to Rembrandt's seven paintings of Jesus, curator Lloyd DeWitt suggests that the same model posed for each painting - and that the model was Jewish. "For Rembrandt, working from a Jewish model would have been a means of returning to a historical truth," DeWitt writes, "of portraying Jesus unadulterated, as the Jew that he was - a form of realism scoffing at tradition."
Table Magazine recently published an in-depth article about both the exhibit and Rembrandt's Jewish connection. According to the article, there is no evidence that an actual person posed for Rembrandt's paintings of Jesus or that, if someone did pose, they were Jewish. One expert interviewed by Tablet over the phone believes that Rembrandt didn't need to have a model in front of him to give Jesus a Semitic look. "Rembrandt's faces look so lifelike you're immediately impelled to say, that's a portrait," he said. "If someone asked you to paint a picture of any fantasy figure, you could probably draw Snow White. You can have an image in your head without having an actual model."
You can learn more about this exhibit by visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art's website or this online brochure from the Louvre's website. You might also be interested in this About.com article on Judaism and Jesus: