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Book: Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art
Authors: Neil MacGregor with Erika Langmuir
Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, pp.240


Excerpt from Jacket:

The life and death of Christ has shaped Western European art for nearly two thousand years, providing a framework for great artists to address universal questions of love, hope heroism, and suffering. Since there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus' appearance, his image in Western art has been able to reflect seriously the spiritual world of the artist, the desires of the patron, or the needs of the spectator. In this magnificently illustrated book, Neil MacGregor considers the many ways in which artists, at different times and from different cultures, have presented the story of Christ and explains how the likeness of Jesus that we now all recognize has emerged.

Focusing on images of Christ in high art and popular craft throughout the world in galleries, churches, museums, private homes, catacombs, and market stalls MacGregor traces the life of Christ and the development of Christian culture since his birth. He shows how some of the works reveal not only society's view of Christ and of itself but also the inner spiritual turmoil of their creators. MacGregor points to Michelangelo's successive sculptures of the Pieta, for example, in which the artist left a record of the evolution of his faith and of the anguish and doubt that colored his last days. In the same way, Rembrandt's reworking of his etching of the Crucifixion reveals not just his changing understanding of the event but also his darkening view of life. Throughout, MacGregor argues that images of Christ can still speak powerfully to believers and nonbelievers and that they are as important to us now as a way of understanding our lives as they were when they were made.

Excerpt from Book:

The finest of Bamberg's cribs is, without question, the one in the church of the Obere Pfarre, where eighteenth - and nineteenth-century figures tell the story as it might have happened in Bamberg itself. The angel appears to Mary, who lives not in an ordinary, half-timbered house, but in a smart stone pavilion, very much like one that can still be seen a few hundred yards away on the Michelsberg. Adoring the new-born child are identifiable local characters, among them a celebrated Bamberg horseradish seller.

Yet if everything is happening in the same place, it is certainly not happening at the same time. In front of the stable where the Three Kings have left their horses, summer corn is being threshed, and fruit and flowers, for which Bamberg's market gardens are still famous, are being sold because the events of Christmas touch daily life at every season of the year.

The cribs of Bamberg have been called a meditation for the eyes'. What they teach is that there is no need for us to struggle to Bethlehem like the Peruvian chieftain, because Bethlehem is where we live. The stable is in our own town, Christ is being born now, here, and we should pay attention.

Table of Contents:

Part One - The Birth of God
Chapter one: The Adoration of the Kings
Chapter two: A King among Kings
Chapter three: Sovereign Helplessness
Chapter four: Peter Bruegel, The Elder: The Adoration of Kings

Part Two - The Question of Appearance
Chapter five: Signs and Deeds
Chapter six: The Quest for the True Likeness

Part Three - The Suffering God
Chapter seven: From Victory to Atonement
Chapter eight: Passion and Compassion
Chapter nine: Rembrandt: Three Crosses and Michelangelo: Pieta

Part Four - The Risen Christ
Chapter ten: The Body Lowered and Raised
Chapter eleven: Till Kingdom Come