Friday, December 15, 2017

Big-nosed Jesus and God as a second-rate Santa: the worst Christian art

By Stuart Jeffries
One eye on his CV … a detail from The Apparition of the Apostle Peter to Saint Peter Nolasco, which features in Navid Kermani’s book. Photograph: akg-images / Erich Lessing
There is a particularly ugly nutwood carving of the infant Jesus dating from 1320. The nose is wider than it is long and the lower lip is pulled up, emphasizing a ball-shaped chin and unpleasantly globular cheeks. Only a mother could believe this cherub beautiful, says Navid Kermani, who also takes issue with the three discolored fingers Jesus is holding up, supposedly in blessing. Kermani, a German Muslim writer of Iranian Shia ancestry, has included this exhibit, which sits in Berlin’s Bode Museum, in his new book, Wonder Beyond Belief: On Christianity. Kermani does something both refreshingly cheeky and philosophically instructive. [More]
‘He seems about to stick his bent brown fingers down your throat’ … the nutwood carving of Jesus. Photograph: Skulpturensammlung und Museum Byzantinische Kunst, SMB / Walter Steinkopf
A sub-Santa peeping down from a window … Stefan Lochner’s Madonna of the Rose Bower. Photograph: akg-images