Head of Christ

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Head of Christ
The Head of Christ by Warner Sallman 1941.jpg
Artist Warner Sallman
Year 1940

The Head of Christ, also called the Sallman Head, is a 1940 portrait painting of Jesus of Nazareth by American artist Warner Sallman (1892-1968). As an extraordinarily successful work of Christian popular devotional art,[1] it had been reproduced over half a billion times worldwide by the end of the 20th century.[2] Enlarged copies of the work have been made for churches and small pocket or wallet-sized prayer cards, bearing the image, have been mass-produced for private devotional use.[1][3] The painting is said to have "become the basis for [the] visualization of Jesus" for "hundreds of millions" of people.[4][5]

Origins[edit]

The Head of Christ originated as a charcoal sketch entitled The Son of Man done in 1924 and sold to be the cover of the Covenant Companion, the denominational magazine for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Sallman did several variations of the painting over the years, and the first oil version was done in 1935 for the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Evangelical Covenant Church. In 1940, he was asked to reproduce that painting by the students of North Park Theological Seminary. This reproduction was seen by representatives of the Gospel Trumpet Company, the publishing arm of the Church of God (Anderson), who created a new company called Kriebel and Bates to market Sallman's work. For the next thirty years, Kriebel and Bates marketed over 100 Warner Sallman works. When Kriebel and Bates dissolved, the copyrights to these works were acquired by Warner Press.

The Baptist Bookstore initially popularized the painting, distributing various sized lithographic images for sale throughout the southern United States. The Salvation Army and the YMCA, as members of the USO, handed out pocket-sized versions of the painting to American servicemen heading overseas during World War II. After the war, groups in Oklahoma and Indiana conducted campaigns to distribute the image into private and public spaces. One Lutheran organizer in Illinois "said that there ought to be 'card-carrying Christians' to counter the effect of 'card-carrying Communists."[6]

Features[edit]

Many Lutheran and Roman Catholic Christians have praised the painting for the hidden host on the forehead of The Head of Christ, and a chalice on His temple, both pointing to the Holy Eucharist.[7] Similarly, the Head of Christ became popular among evangelical Christians as well, as they believed the portrait to emphasize the "salvific power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus".[8] David Morgan, a professor of religion at Duke University, states that "for many Christians during the Cold War, Sallman's portrait did symbolize a virile, manly Christ, while for others it embodied a more intimate and nurturing Jesus, a personal saviour for modern times."[9]

Associated miracles[edit]

Warner Sallman believed that his initial sketch of The Head of Christ was the result of a "miraculous vision that he received late one night", stating that "the answer came at 2 A.M., January 1924" as "a vision in response to my prayer to God in a despairing situation."[10]

The Head of Christ is also venerated in the Coptic Orthodox Church,[11] after twelve-year-old Isaac Ayoub of Houston, Texas, who was diagnosed with leukaemia, saw the eyes of Jesus in the painting shedding tears; Fr. Ishaq Soliman of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Houston, on the same day, "testified to the miracles" and on the next day, "Dr. Atef Rizkalla, the family physician, examined the youth and certified that there were no traces of leukemia".[12] With episcopal approval from Bishop Tadros of Port Said and Bishop Yuhanna of Cairo, "Sallman's Head of Christ was exhibited in the Coptic Church", with "more than fifty thousand people" visiting the church to see it.[12]

In addition, several religious magazines have explained the "power of Sallman's picture" by documenting occurrences such as headhunters letting go of a businessman and fleeing after seeing a copy of the image on his person, a "thief who aborted his misdeed when he saw the Head of Christ on a living room wall", and deathbed conversions of non-believers to Christianity.[13]

Appearances[edit]

The chancel of El Buen Samaritano United Methodist Church features a large copy of Sallman's Head of Christ rather than a traditional altar cross.[14] St. Francis de Sales Seminary, a Roman Catholic institution in Oklahoma City, "requested and received a gigantic Head of Christ to display on campus."[15] According to David Morgan, the Head of Christ "is still found in both Protestant and Catholic churches, enjoys fond use among Mormons, Latinos, Native Americans, and African Americans, and hangs in Christian homes in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe."[6]

The Head of Christ has appeared in scenes of several films, such as Jungle Fever (1991) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).[16][17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lippy, Charles H. (1 January 1994). Being Religious, American Style: A History of Popular Religiosity in the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 185. ISBN 9780313278952. Retrieved 30 April 2014. Of these one stands out as having deeply impressed itself of the American religious consciousness: the "Head of Christ" by artist Warner Sallman (1892-1968). Originally sketched in charcoal as a cover illustration for the Covenant Companion, the magazine of the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant of America denomination, and based on an image of Jesus in a painting by the French artist Leon Augustin Lhermitte, Sallman's "Head of Christ" was painted in 1940. In half a century, it had been produced more than five hundred million times in formats ranging from large-scale copies for use in churches to wallet-sized ones that individuals could carry with them at all times. 
  2. ^ Blum, Edward J.; Harvey, Paul (21 September 2012). Color of Christ. UNC Press Books. p. 211. ISBN 9780807837375. Retrieved 30 April 2014. By the 1990s, Sallman's Head of Christ had been printed more than 500 million times and had achieved global iconic status. 
  3. ^ Wood, Ralph C. (2003). Contending for the Faith: The Church's Engagement with Culture. Baylor University Press. p. 63. ISBN 9780918954862. Devotional images of a haloed and idealized Jesus—concentrating especially upon his face—thus came into immense vogue. Warner Sallman's Head of Christ and Heinrich Hofmann's Christ in Gethsemane were but the most popular among many hundreds of sentimental images of the Savior. 
  4. ^ Lippy, Charles H. (1 January 1994). Being Religious, American Style: A History of Popular Religiosity in the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 185. ISBN 9780313278952. Retrieved 30 April 2014. There is, of course, no physical description of Jesus in the New Testament or in any other surviving early Christian literature. Yet for hundreds of millions, Sallman's depiction has become the basis for their visualization of Jesus, a Jesus who brings the sacred into the realm of the ordinary. 
  5. ^ Prothero, Stephen (15 December 2003). American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 117. ISBN 9780374178901. During the postwar revival of the 1940s and 1950s, as Protestants and Catholics downplayed denominational differences in order to present a united front against the menace of godless Communism, Sallman's Jesus became far and away the most common image of Jesus in American homes, churches, and workplaces. Thanks to Sallman (and the savvy marketing of his distributors), Jesus became instantly recognizable by Americans of all races and religions. 
  6. ^ a b Morgan, David (Summer 2006). "The face that's everywhere". Christian History & Biography. Christianity Today International (91): 11. 
  7. ^ Morgan, David (1998). Visual Piety: A History and Theory of Popular Religious Images. University of California Press. p. 131. ISBN 9780520923133. It seems significant that the majority of writers who mentioned the sacramental imagery of chalice and host came from the highly sacramental traditions of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism (eleven and seven of twenty-two letters, respectively). In both instances, the identity of the elements of the sacrament of the altar with the physical person of Jesus corresponds to the respective doctrines of the sacrament: real presence or transubstantation. A Lutheran clergyman from Indiana referred to the Head of Christ as the "Communion Christ" and wrote that "I remind my first communion class and catechism students that everytime we take communion we meet and see Christ as we have never seen him before" (372). A Passionist nun wrote that the Head of Christ hanging in the parlor of her convent in Japan exhibits the chalice and host and "leads one to love Jesus [who is] always present in the Bread and Chalice of the Eucharist" (380). Thus, the mystery of hidden images in the person of Jesus seems an appropriate metaphor for the mystery of the sacrament of the altar to those Christians who search for a way of expressing the embeddedness of the divine in the matter of the Eucharistic meal and its prototype in the incarnation. 
  8. ^ Neal, Lynn S. (2006). Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction. Univ of North Carolina Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780807856703. From WWJD bracelets to Warner Sallman's Head of Christ, evangelicalism emphasizes the salvific power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as how he experienced the sufferings of humanity while remaining without sin. 
  9. ^ Morgan, David (1996). Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman. Yale University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780300063424. Morgan explains that for many Christians during the Cold War Sallman's portrait did symbolize a virile, manly Christ, while for others it embodied a more intimate and nurturing Jesus, a personal savior for modern times. 
  10. ^ Morgan, David (1996). Icons of American Protestantism: The Art of Warner Sallman. Yale University Press. p. 62. ISBN 9780300063424. Sallman always insisted that his initial sketch of Jesus was the result of spiritual "picturization," a miraculous vision that he received late one night. "The answer came at 2 A.M., January 1924," he wrote. "It came as a vision in response to my prayer to God in a despairing situation." The situation was a deadline: Sallman had been commissioned to paint the February cover for the Covenant Companion, the monthly magazine of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and he had artist's block for weeks. The February issue was focusing on Christian youth, and Sallman's assignment was to provide an inspirational image of Christ that would "challenge our young people." "I mused over it for a long time in prayer and meditation," Sallman recalled, "seeking for something which would catch the eye and convey the message of the Christian gospel on the cover." 
  11. ^ Otto F.A. Meinardus, Ph.D. (Fall 1997). "Theological Issues of the Coptic Orthodox Inculturation in Western Society". Coptic Church Review. 18 (3). ISSN 0273-3269. An interesting case of inculturation occurred on Monday, November 11, 1991 when the 12-year-old Isaac Ayoub of Houston, Texas, suffering from leukemia, saw that the eyes of Jesus in the famous Sallman “Head of Christ” began moving and shedding an oily liquid like tears. On the same day, Fr. Ishaq Soliman, the Coptic priest of St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Houston, testified to the miracles. On the following day, Dr. Atef Rizkalla, the family physician, examined the youth and certified that there were no traces of leukemia. Sallman’s “Head of Christ” was exhibited in the Coptic Church and more than 50,000 people visited the church. Two Coptic bishops, Anbâ Tadros of Port Said and Anbâ Yuhanna of Cairo verified the story. 
  12. ^ a b Meinardus, Otto F. A. (17 October 2006). Christians In Egypt: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Communities - Past and Present. American University in Cairo Press. p. 70. ISBN 9781617972621. An interesting case of inculturation took place on Monday, November 11, 1991 when the twelve-year-old Isaac Ayoub of Houston, Texas, suffering from leukemia, saw that the eyes of Jesus in the famous Sallman "Head of Christ" began moving and shedding an oily liquid like tears. On the same day, Father Ishaq Soliman, the Coptic priest of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Houston, testified to the miracles. On the following day, Dr. Atef Rizkalla, the family physician, examined the youth and certified that there were no traces of leukemia. Sallman's "Head of Christ" was exhibited in the Coptic Church and more than fifty thousand people visited the church. Two Coptic bishops, Bishop Tadros of Port Said and Bishop Yuhanna of Cairo, verified the story. 
  13. ^ Morgan, David (1996). The Art of Warner Sallman. Yale University Press. p. 192. ISBN 9780300063424. Articles published in popular religious magazines during this time gathered together in an obviously didactic way several anecdotes concerning the power of Sallman's picture among nonwhites, non-Christians, and those exhibiting unacceptable behavior. We read of a white businessman, for instance, in a remote jungle, assaulted by a vicious group of headhunters who demand that he remove his clothes. In going though his billfold, they discover a small reproduction of Sallman's Christ, quickly apologize, then vanish "into the jungle without inflicting further harm." A second article relates the story of the thief who aborted his misdeed when he saw the Head of Christ on a living room wall. Another tells of the conversion of a Jewish woman on her deathbed, when a hospital chaplain shows her Sallman's picture. 
  14. ^ Barton, Paul (1 January 2010). Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas. University of Texas Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780292782914. A large copy of Sallman's Head of Christ hung in place of the cross at the front of the sanctuary of El Buen Samaritano Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 
  15. ^ Blum, Edward J.; Harvey, Paul (21 September 2012). Color of Christ. UNC Press Books. p. 211. ISBN 9780807837375. Retrieved 30 April 2014. A new Catholic seminary in Oklahoma City requested and received a gigantic Head of Christ to display on campus. 
  16. ^ Morgan, David; Promey, Sally M. (2001). The Visual Culture of American Religions. University of California Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780520225220. Retrieved 30 April 2014. and re-presenting the exhibition of pictures or objects in video formats that include both time and motion (for example, the appearance of a print version of Warner Sallman's 1940 Head of Christ in Spike Lee's 1991 film, Jungle Fever). 
  17. ^ Blum, Edward J. (11 September 2013). "Silver Linings Jesus". The Christian Century. Retrieved 30 April 2014. But one constant amid the family chaos is a framed image of Jesus. You’ve probably seen this one before. It is Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ, that white, blue-eyed, long-haired Jesus who looks into the distance. Since first marketed in the 1940s, it has become the most reproduced depiction of Jesus on the globe. In Silver Linings Playbook, Jesus resides on a wall in the family room, a common phenomenon that art historian David Morgan found when he examined placements of Jesus in 1950s and ‘60s America. 

External links[edit]