Art History Hotties: The Baptism of Christ

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The Baptism of Christ, The Limbourg Brothers

By LIBBY ROHR

Jesus is a professional model.  He speaks in that Zoolander voice. He knows how to pose. He's the kind of hot that doesn't even have to look in the mirror. He doesn't have to comb his hair, but he did spend six hours the other day styling his beard. The two pointed look is really en vogue right now. He's bringing sexy all the way back to 15th century. No wonder Christianity caught on. Look at those abs. That muscle definition. The soft alabaster skin. The flowing hair. The sloping calves. The tiny white mini-skirt. What more could you want from the Lamb of God? If God created this Jesus in his image, then God must be smoking. Even the angels agree. They're blushing so hard their wings are turning color. That never happens. Even John the Baptist can't help but to stare. I mean look at those collarbones! It makes me consider the literal interpretation of a "divine glow." Holy men congregate in hordes behind him. They're not staring at his butt in that insanely short wrap. Of course not. They're definitely just here for the spiritual stuff. Definitely. This Jesus is making idolatry pretty tempting. Forget your "french girls," Leo, paint me like 15th century Jesus.

Well done, Limbourg brothers. From the trio that brought us a slew of over-the-top rich people festivals and a line of farmers using the chamber pot,  Paul, Jean, and Herman Limbourg now grace us with the presence of sexy Jesus, one of the most appealing forms of Jesus out there. Hey, if you can't get them interested in scripture, maybe you can entice some converts with this masterpiece. Unfortunately for the masses, these French masters were experts at illumination and in particular creating illustrations for customized books for the upper class. 

Often time religious works of this era were created to educate, stir emotion, and add a visual accompaniment to help better understand these stories as the life of the son of God. As a result, many frescoes in the early Renaissance featured nondescript, "ordinary" faces that reflect the type of people that would be seeing their works in an effort to connect the audience to the stories. The figure of Jesus, obviously, offered the least room for interpretation. He is always pictured with relatively dark hair that curls at the bottom and a full beard in an effort to ensure the accuracy of the image. Yet, looking at works like this one it would be hard to believe it wasn't at least slightly tailored to the audience. For one thing, these figures are all European, not Middle Eastern like Jesus would have been. The the incredibly white skin and the auburn hair for one suggest that the Jesus in this image is french like its onlookers. Furthermore the landscape of this work, from the sloping mountains, deciduous trees, and the Gothic castle behind them, is decidedly French. Between these connecting factors, the accuracy of the image presented, the vibrancy and the skill of the painting itself, and Jesus's glorious form, this illumination goes above and beyond its requirements and showcases the (smokin') work of true masters.

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