Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sensual Christianity: Pre-Raphaelites Showcased at National Gallery of Art

By Eve Tushnet
"Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet" by Ford Madox Brown
WASHINGTON, DC --- The reputation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood has sometimes suffered for its ability to create beautiful surfaces. Unlike devotees of the overlapping Aesthetic and Decadent movements, who, in some ways, were the Brotherhood’s heirs, the Pre-Raphaelites were aggressively English and Protestant. And the exhibit highlights the artists’ religious sensibilities—in fact, one room is dedicated to portrayals of “Salvation,” but religious themes weave throughout the show—and religious paintings show some of the best examples of the Pre-Raphaelite method. These paintings are filled with the kind of religious symbolism and foreshadowing that can be defended theologically. [link]
"Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet" (1857-1858) by Ford Madox Brown
This method was controversial at the time because it seemed to emphasize the human qualities of Jesus and the saints at the expense of transcendence. Ford Madox Brown’s huge "Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet" originally showed a Christ naked to the waist, but public outcry prompted him to paint in a loosely draped shirt. John Millais’s "Christ in the House of His Parents" drew controversy (Charles Dickens loathed it) because it seemed to portray the Holy Family as just another carpenter and his clan: ordinary people doing ordinary things.

National Gallery of Art: "Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900" (Ends May 19, 2013), 4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC