Jesus was not a ‘Scandinavian sailor’
It’s always been a geographical and ethnic anomaly that Jesus is depicted as Aryan – blond, blueeyed and tall – in much of Western art. Now a man from the US is challenging the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on this practice, calling it “offensive aesthetic whitewashing”.
The New York Post reported that Justin Renel Joseph (33) has labelled five paintings in the museum offensive on the grounds that Jesus ought to have “black hair like wool and skin of bronze”.
Joseph is a self-described “biracial male who is of Hebrew and African descent”, and also “a Christian”.
The museum, meanwhile, has defended the works, saying: “When they were painted, it was typical for artists to depict subjects with the same identity as the local audience. This phenomenon occurs in many other cultures.”
This comes a year after artist and scientist Richard Neave used forensic anthropology to put a face to Jesus. Using computerised images of three skulls from Israeli archaeological sites near where history tells us Jesus lived and worked, he shows Jesus as he must have been – a Middle Eastern Jewish man.
Depictions of Jesus that rock the Western religious status quo are common, with Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ and Doug Blanchard’s Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.
Joseph’s case, though, is a reminder that the depiction of Jesus as a “Scandinavian sailor”, as New York Daily News writer Shaun King says, is equally problematic for those Christians “othered” by this Western depiction.
THE FACE OF JESUS Artist and scientist Richard Neave uses forensic anthropology to show what Jesus really looked like