Christmas came early for me this year. After several years of desire, my parents bought me prints of two of my favorite paintings: “Quid veritas est?” and ” Last Supper,” both painted by my Russian realist, Nikolai Ge (1831-1894). Ge is well-known for his friendship with Tolstoy and dissenting views of the Russian Orthodox Church. His religious works garnered first fame, then revile, even producing an governmental charge of blasphemy. He attacked the Christo-Iconography of the Russian Church and painted the God/Man as a man; ugly, abused, forlorn, and often in darkness. For Ge, Jesus’s humanity reflected his primary purpose; to be the propitiation of the world.
Carolyn Pirtle, of Notre Dame, brilliantly explained Ge’s “Last Support here.
Jefferson Gatrall wrote a good piece on Tolstoy and Ge’s vision of Christ here.
Sadly, the Eutychianism of 18th century Russian Iconism is alive and well today. Mainly in terrible art, poor worship, and proper Evangelicalism. Images of the Messiah have become so ubiquitous that he has, ironically, become unrecognizable. Remember the child born of the young Theotokos. Remember the homeless vagabond, remember the suffering Saviour, true God and true Man.