In all of art, there are only two depictions of Christ that I—a notorious renegade Catholic—admire. One is in a Luis Buñuel film called La voie lactée, or The Milky Way (1969). In it, Bernard Verley played the role of the Son of Man (below) as a likable guy who just happens to turn water into wine at the wedding at Cana, because his mother kept insisting, “But they have no more wine!” I could see wanting to become his disciple.
Today, I visited my favorite painted depiction of Christ at the Getty Center. It was the work of Antonio Allegri, better known as Correggio, sometime between 1525 and 1530. According to the museum’s website, the small (28.6 cm x 23.5 cm) painting represents the face of Christ on the veil offered to Him by St. Veronica on the road to Calvary—though I am not convinced of that. He is wearing the crown of thorns, which looks as if it had just been placed on his head without any sweat or bleeding in evidence.
What there is is an expression on Christ’s face that is a somber acknowledgment of the horrible death to come, the same death that He had asked to be relieved of in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Luke 22:39)
Neither of them show us the namby-pamby Evangelical Christ which is fed as pabulum to brainless children (and adults). I can believe in Correggio’s Christ, as I do in Buñuel’s Christ. They both portray the innate tragedy of the Redemption and the strange mismatch between God’s nature and man’s in the same body.