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Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of Christ, ca. 1648, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin
Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of Christ, ca. 1648, at Gemaldegalerie, Berlin

Rembrandt van Rijn

Apr. 5, 2011

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The face of Jesus seems to turn up all over the place -- on a three-cheese pizza, in a water stain, on the Shroud of Turin.

Now, the face of Jesus is coming to Philadelphia this summer, via no less than seven portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn.

“Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus,” Aug. 3-Oct. 30, 2011, brings seven of Rembrandt’s eight known portraits of Jesus -- two of which he kept in his own bedroom -- to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The seven paintings are fairly small, and all painted on wood.

The same young man posed for the pictures, art historians say, a young Sephardic Jew from Rembrandt's neighborhood in Amsterdam, which housed many refugees from the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. The man’s indentity is unknown "This was very likely the first time in the history of Christian art that Jesus appeared to be Jewish," said Philadelphia Museum curator Lloyd De Witt.

"Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" is the first big Rembrandt show to come to Philadelphia, says museum director Timothy Rub. The exhibition includes the Louvre's Supper at Emmaus (1648), which hasn't been seen in the U.S. since 1936. The National Gallery, London, is sending another major work, Christ and the Woman Taken into Adultery (1644).

In all, the show boasts 50 additional paintings, prints and drawings by Rembrandt. It is co-organized with the Musée du Louvre, where it premieres this month, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, where it opens in November 2011.

Yale University Press is publishing the catalogue, available May 16, 2011, with essays by the three curators (Blaise Ducos from the Louvre and George S. Keyes from Detroit) as well as Seymour Slive and five other scholars.

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