A Fancy Frenchman’s Jewish Jesus
Followers of The Barking Fox may have noticed the frequent appearance of illustrations by the French artist Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), better known in English as James Tissot. His works quickly came to my attention from the beginning of this blog as I began to look for pictures to enhance the impact of each post. Several qualities make Tissot’s work ideal for this purpose: a large selection of material (several hundred paintings on biblical themes); accurate depictions of the subject matter which reflect Tissot’s extensive research and personal experience in the Holy Land; the artist’s ability to capture the genuine humanness of his ancient subjects; and, perhaps most important for a blog, the fact that most of his work is in the public domain.
As a suitable close to an eventful year of blogging, it is my pleasure to share an article about the life of James Tissot written by Erik Ross, an American-born Catholic priest who teaches at a Dominican school of theology in Krakow, Poland. The article contrasts Tissot’s Catholic faith with his painstakingly accurate depiction of Jesus (Yeshua) as the first-century Jew. Oddly enough it appeared in The Times of Israel, a Jewish Israeli publication. Here it is reproduced in a Hebrew Roots blog for the enjoyment and edification of everyone.
Originally published in The Times of Israel, December 28, 2015
He was born in 1836 in Nantes to a rich cloth merchant and his wife. Jacques (“James”) Tissot had Catholic parents and was a good Catholic boy. He became a good painter and not such a good boy.
Yet, though he took his time, Tissot finally handed over his brushes to God. And in the latter years of his life, Tissot showed the mysteries of Christianity in a way no one has duplicated since.
Acting on an instinct that is second nature to Catholics — and perhaps anathema to Jews — he tried to paint the face of God.
The young Tissot wanted to live by art, but the real money was in vanity. There was no Paris Hilton in 1860s Paris, but there were plenty of goldflake beauties. Tissot painted their selfies.