Essay on Early Christian Art

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Early Christian art included sculpture, mosaics, manuscript illumination and late classical style that involved the portrayal of the human body. There was adoption of Roman motifs and giving of meaning to them in early Christian art. One of the well known motifs that have been known as an example of Christian art is the Good Shepherd. The subject matter in the Good Shepherd is that of Jesus Christ. In the Good Shepherd, there is a portrayal of a beardless youth taking care of sheep. The Good Shepherd is a historical representation of Jesus Christ. Before the adoption of the Good Shepherd art as a representation of Jesus Christ by Christians, the art had for a long time been used as a symbol for different philosophical and religious groups (Jensen 16). Figure 1 is an illustration of the Good Shepherd.

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Figure 1: The Good Shepherd

Jesus is portrayed as a good shepherd who does whatever he can to ensure that his sheep are protected. There are Biblical references revealing Jesus Christ himself confessing to be a good shepherd. John 10: 11-18 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn't own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn't care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I'm known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father.

The Good shepherd art was legalized in 313 A.D by Christians to be a representation of Jesus Christ. The parable of the lost sheep found in the Bible is closely related to the art of the Good shepherd. In the Good Shepherd art, a shepherd is shown with one sheep placed on his shoulders and four sheep surrounding him. There are two sheep on his left hand and two sheep on his right hand side. Two of the sheep look up to him but two of the other sheep graze peacefully and are turned away from him without any bother. From a small distance, there are two predatory animals, lions, grazing. The Good Shepherd makes sure his sheep are protected from the two predatory lions (Jensen 25).

In the Last Judgment theme as portrayed from the Romanesque period, all men will stand in front of God and be judged for the sins they committed. The scene portrayed in the Last Judgment Art is that of Christ as the judge, there is the resurrection of the dead, there is weighing of souls to establish those who lived righteous lives and those who were sinners. There is separation of saved people and those who are eternally damned; there is also the representation of paradise and hell in the Last Judgment theme as portrayed from the Romanesque period (Jensen 42). Figure 2 is an illustration of the Last Judgment during the Romanesque period.

Figure 2: The Last Judgement

In the Last Judgment art, Jesus Christ is revealed to be a stern judge and he is shown carrying a sword while surrounded by beasts that have mystical significance. The Last Judgment art was used by the church to try and send its followers a message that there will be judgment with regard to how human beings live on earth. Individuals who live righteous lives will be judged by Jesus Christ and they will live in paradise ever after. Individuals who live wicked lives will be judged and eternally condemned to live in hell thereafter for living sinful lives.

Work Cited

Jensen, Robin M. Understanding Early Christian Art. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.

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