Rise Of A Star. Scenes From The Life Of Jesus Christ 1. Paintings Of James Tissot. P.S.Remesh Chandran.
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum.
In the modern day world, tracing the life of a great man is not difficult, for there would be photographs of his taken by contemporaries in his time. But what would we do to observe the life of a great man who lived among us before 2000 years? We have the only option of searching for paintings that may exist in castles, caves, churches, monasteries or archives. Luckily, to view the like of Jesus, we have a unique collection of paintings done by a single person, saved at a single repository.
Holy Virgin Mary in her early life, a maiden.
There have been thousands of paintings based on Jesus Christ’s life, done by hundreds of gifted painters in all countries, done in all centuries. These paintings include those done by such talented and gifted ones as Andrea del Castagno, Andrea del Verrocchio, Boticelli, Caravaggio, Dieric Bouts, El Greco, Filippino Lippi, Fra Angelico, Giovanni Bellini, Hieronymus Bosch, Leonardo da Vinci, Ligier Richier, Lotto, Mark Antokolski, Nicolas Poussin, Perugino, Peter Paul Rubens, Piero della Francesca, Piero di Cosimo, Pieter Brueghel, Raffaello Sanzio, Rogier van der Weyden, Signorelli, Tintoret, and Titian. Most of them are lost, some of them are in public museums and churches and not a few of them are in private collections. Not one can see them all even if he is blessed with so many lives. There have been artists who attempted picturizing scenes which he liked and admired, and also there have been other artists who attempted painting all the important scenes like a historian whether he liked and admired those scenes or not. There have been much differences in drawing the face of Christ. There have also been much differences in the artists’ research and learning the costumes, backgrounds and body postures in Jesus’ times. There have been excellently bright pictures done in vibrant colours by artists who could afford costly materials. And there also have been equally brilliant pictures done by poor artists on cheap materials who could not afford even the buying of their daily bread. They all shared one thing in common- exhilaration at the simplicity and humbleness of that divine life. If you want to follow the life of Jesus with your eyes, without straining unnecessarily to read printed words, your choice of artists are very limited for the brightness of the picture and the likeness of the face of Jesus changes with each artist. The author’s selection is James Tissot, and the readers can have the privilege of reconstructing the life of Christ with other painters. Anyway it would be a worthwhile attempt for we would be going through everything man was born with, passing through anger, darkness, tears and sunshine, especially learning the meaning and purpose of tears.
Testing of the suitors of the Holy Virgin.
A fine collection of scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, done by a 19th century painter named James Tissot is saved and collected at one place, the Brooklyn Museum. He did these paintings in water colour over a charcoal base on woven paper, all four hundred of them, probably commissioned by a church, taking only six years from 1886 to 1894 to finish them. We cannot all go there and see these pictures and go through the life of Jesus Christ once again, but they magnanimously shared those magnificent paintings with Wikimedia Commons, a few of which are reintroduced here in the order of their happening in the real life of that great revolutionary. We are greatly indebted to both these great institutions for making this endeavor possible. Links to both these institutions are provided at the end of this article to lead readers to these two repositories which made this great service of storing safe the scenes from the eventful life of the saviour of this world, a saviour spiritually and physically.
It is the early life of Jesus Christ that is pictured here, from the girlhood of the Blessed Mother, her betrothal to Saint Joseph, the anointment, the birth of infant Jesus among sheep and cows in a manger, the visit of the three magician priests from the East, the slaughter of all infants who might become a challenge to king Herodes, the flight of this holy family to Egypt, their sojourn in Egypt and their return from Egypt, the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the last picture of Jesus Christ carrying a wooden plank, before he vanished at the age of twelve years. There would be three more articles that would be published here, if circumstances permit. They are Jesus- The Healer, The Story Of A Crucifixion and What Happened After The Cross.
Betrothal of the Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph.
James Tissot, the French painter who lived in Paris and London during the years 1836 to 1902 abandoned all his other subjects when he was moved by the pictorial scopes of the New Testament. He painted nearly 400 of them within the six years between 1886 and 1894, all in the simplest of mediums, opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper. In Brooklyn Museum’s words, these paintings were hall marks of ‘archaeological exactitude and historical authenticity’. To learn the customs, costumes, architecture and landscape of the Holy Land, he travelled through the Middle East and took countless number of photographs and made innumerable number of drawings. These paintings were purchased by public subscription. The people of Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century took a public collection called out by the newspaper Brooklyn Daily Eagle, purchased the paintings and made them available on public display at the Brooklyn Museum. The world has to thank them three for this great act of theirs which kept these pictures in public custody instead of reaching private archives.
The Annunciation. Fulfillment of divine intentions.
Like all mothers in the world, Mary also was a lovely young girl, attending dutifully the chores of a community life. Like all mothers, she also was betrothed to a person. The only difference was, since it was destined to give birth to a saviour of the world whom she will have to loose at an early age which was known to eastern sages, and also since she will have to undergo the hardest and severest trials in her life which would be shared by a man, her husband had to be carefully chosen to help facilitate the completion of the mission. So, her suitors were tested.
Birth of Jesus Christ in a humble cattle shed.
Annunciation, reincarnation, etc are alien to many communities and sects in the world but it was not so with the ancient Egyptians and Indians. Egyptian and Indian beliefs and faith are confident about the truth of both. Are we not all annunciations of our creator irrespective of our parents’ bodily relations? Are we not reincarnations of our ancestors, imitating them in speech, gesture, look, walk, conduct, and nature, everything, made possible by the mysterious messengers whom we call genes?
The adoration of the shepherds.
Population census in old times was different from now in that now enumerators come to our house but then people travelled to the city for their count and details to be taken. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to take part in the census but did not get a place for Mary to give birth to her child. They knocked on every door but could not find a place. Every house and public place been occupied, she got shelter in somebody’s cattle shed. There was none to attend Mary in her pains. God had chosen his son to have the lowliest and most humble place for his birth. The most innocent and worthy beings in the world, sheep and cows, witnessed the birth. Apart from the incessant snow and cold, it was the most stainless birth for a human. It was the simplest of people, belonging to the most ancient of professions, shepherds, who first came to see the baby, with presents of course. Great things start simple.
Three Magician Priests from the East, guided by a star, journeying to see the child.
Three magician priests in the east, probably in India, Tibet and Afghanistan, glimpsed the appearance of a new star in the sky and sensed that a divine birth has happened somewhere in the world. Star watching had been developed by then as a full fledged science among the ancient Indians and the Babylonians. These three magician priests from the east, or Magi in the short form decided to trace the child who would be very divine for his birth to be announced by the appearance of a new star. They decided to follow the path guided by the lonely star, the lode-star, wherever in the world that child might be. Bearing eastern presents like camphor and saffron, suffering hardships all the way, they travelled thousands of miles through snow-clad mountains and parching deserts, accompanied by their people, staff and spies, and finally reached where the star led.
The adoration of the three Magician Priests from the East.
The presence of so large a group of persons from the east cannot be hidden from the city authorities. They certainly had to pay a visit to Herodes. Either they might have been successful in revealing not the actual purpose of their journey or the exact place of their visit. A king can guess many things in his intelligence or his courtiers can. He already knew there would be challenges to his throne and that the challenge in only newly born. He ordered the killing of all newly-borns. Why the story of Christ is linked with the story of Christna we can guess now. Lord Krishna when he was born, was prophesied to have born to kill his uncle, the king Kamsa. He knew about the prophecy but did not know which child. Therefore he ordered killing of all newly borns. Krishna’s father folded him in a shawl and in heavy rains, while a huge snake provided umbrella protection, took him secretly to safety and hiding. Scholars believed, the names Christ and Jesus were given by the Hindus of India coining from Sanskrit which infuriated the Sanskrit-studied European Max Muller who attempted vainly to disprove this belief.
The massacre of the innocent children by King Herodes.
Countless number of newborns were slaughtered by the king’s soldiers to prevent one among them growing up and de-throning him some day.
The flight of Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Infant Jesus into Egypt.
Look, the bent head of Mary, tilted down by the burden of the world’s sins and crimes, is what the author of this painting wanted the world to note. To save one’s child, to save the world, to rescue humanity, what persecutions and hardships will a mother have to undergo during her life? Since the birth of the child, never had she got a moment of solace or relief, except when looking at its tiny face.
The sojourn of a Holy Family in Egypt.
It is not the only time in world’s history that holy persons have had to flee. Lord Krishna and Prophet Muhammad Nabi also had to flee from pursuers at one time in their lives. Many have lived in exile, before returning to teach the world goodness. Sree Rama, Pandtava Princes in Mahabharatha and King Nala had to live in hiding for many years. They had to make their living at those times, obeying the customs of the land which gave them hiding, engaging in what occupations were available there.
The return from Egypt.
Now the boy is grown up, nearly twelve years old. Watchful eyes of spies of the Magi might be following them from a distance. They know the boy would be recognized, and are prepared to take him with them to safety.
Jesus found in the temple.
Presenting a child at the temple was a custom, not only in Jerusalem but in every ancient community. Jesus also was presented so soon as he was returned from Egypt. We know how authorities will become suspicious when a child 12 years old appears from nowhere all of a sudden, that too 12 years after the massacre of all new born babies in Jerusalem who might grow up as a threat to King Herodes’ throne. We have to assume that there were spies from the east, looking for any threats to the child and report back to the three magician priests.
The youth of Jesus before the time of his vanishing.
There has been debates on where Jesus had been during the years he vanished. It is only logical to assume that the three magician priests from the east took him back considering the child’s safety and the importance of his mission. They trained him in the north eastern kingdoms in India, moved him through Ladakh to Tibet and returned him to his place of mission after 18 years of education. It is not strange to note that most of the people in these north eastern states are now Christian and their native language is now English.
It is not irrelevant here to include a note of comment by the author, published elsewhere:
‘2000 years back, when this famous carpenter of Jerusalem, fleeing from the traitors and aggressors and wormy authorities of his land to secure his life and save his philosophy till his mission is completed, found safety, security, hospitality, solace and moral fighting powers in the far northern native kingdoms of India. That is how the missing years in the life of Christ is explained. When he was born in a cattle shed, again due to haughty abuse of authority, three magician priests from the east, that is from India, read the stars and found their way through thousands of miles to the west to bless the newborn babe, all this journey guided by a lonely star. In those times star watching had developed as a full practical science only among the Indians and the ancient Babylonians. The spices they brought to the child as presents also denote the land where they came from. In ancient Greece, when the great teacher Socrates succumbed to death in an evening in a prison cell in Athens, Plato wept and decided he would take revenge upon the authorities for the death of his master. When advised by friends to flee from Greece before authorities found and executed him too, he fled, travelled the route Alexander later took and reached India. His missing years were spent in India, learning the philosophies and fighting talents, which he when returned, displayed brilliantly and became the master of kings. We see in history, after the execution of Socrates for criticizing state, after just three generations in the time of Aristotle, Socratic philosophies became the ruling principles of the state when King Phillip of Macedonia appointed Aristotle as Alexander’s master. Many anti-religious people in Asia, especially in countries like communist China do not know India became home to how many thousands of Jews who lost homes during the mad military maneuvers of the two world wars. They do not even know how many millions of Nepalis, Burmese, Tibetans, Kashmiris, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis refugees India received and protected during international power turmoils. During these turmoils, countries like these closed their borders. The Hindus, Christians and Muslims of India, with traditional true Indian hospitality, receive anyone who has lost a home. The honourable Dalai Lama was not the last. He has been living in India with his people for half a century, happily accepting India as their second home. He was not a citizen of China, but he lost his home in Tibet, the most un-Chinese act in the past century from the un-Chinese rulers of China. He will return to his free nation. The people of India will see to it. India can shelter, protect and train every lone bird which has lost its sky and nest. It is a generations- old tradition of India. Every returning bird will capture the world, and India will smile inwardly and go on as before’.
Great people, city and institutions we thank for this endeavour.
Pictures Courtesy: First and foremost we are to thank those citizens of Brooklyn City who took a public collection and kept these pictures in public custody. We are immensely indebted to those two prestigious Institutions Wikimedia Commons and Brooklyn Museum for magnanimously making available these pictures to the public. And our thanks and respect goes to James Tissot for rendering these paintings beautifully for posterity.
Link to Brooklyn Museum: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/
Link to Wikimedia Commons page:
If you cannot access all pages of P.S.Remesh Chandran, Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum, kindly access them via this link provided here:
To read about the life and people of Kerala, the author’s native land, visit KERALA COMMENTARY here.
Bloom Books Trivandrum, Jesus, Jesus Manifests His Power, Jesus Paintings, Jesus Teaching, Jesus The Christ, Life Stories, P S Remesh Chandran, Paintings Of James Tissot, Photo Essays, Reintroduced Literature, Sahyadri Books Trivandrum, True Stories, Water Colour Paintings
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of ‘Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book’. Unmarried and single.
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31st Dec 2012 (#)
Very thought provoking, passionately written. Lots of events of history and interpretation of religious texts have to be deduced and derived from various sources. I believe nothing are cast in stone as those who record are human too lending themselves to own interpretations. They can be carried away too – siva
1st Jan 2013 (#)
The changes happening in our being causes us write. And our writing causes us change. I do not know which force is stronger. You would know better. Since I became familiar with the paintings of James Tissot, I had this feeling they had to be reintroduced before a very good reading public. After publishing and seeing them for the first time in the form of a web page, I also discovered one new thing: seeing them by scrolling from down to up provides a new experience, that of going to the past of Christ, he becoming tinier and tinier till he becomes a lovely tiny little baby.
31st Dec 2012 (#)
Fabulous Star article on the life of Jesus, dear friend, with beautiful images to boot. Happy New Year!
1st Jan 2013 (#)
The time draws near the birth of Christ,
The moon is hid, the night is chill,
And Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.
Happy New Year to Dear Buzz, and all by Wikinut Friends.