The painting of Jesus by the Circle of Rembrandt was striking not just in reality, but in its conveyance of emotional expression. The weight of Christ is felt as one observes the painting, and certain aspects will be described.
Christ is turning his head to the left and looking down, his gaze suggesting an introverted contemplation. His expression is one of sadness, as if he is thinking of the sorrow that will soon enter his life. Christ, at least towards the end of his mortal ministry, knew his mission and knew it would come to a brutal and trying end. It couldn’t be described as despair for what was to take place, as this was his mission. It could be that he was feeling as he did when he entered Jerusalem for the last time, or “exceedingly sorrowful” as he did in the Garden of Gethsemene (Luke 39:41-44). Knowing the magnitude and importance of the Atonement meant that he would certainly fulfill his mission, but he didn’t look forward to it.
Christ’s glance actually diverts attention from himself. This is a great technique by the artist to epitomize Christ’s message; that we should not think of ourselves but exercise charity. Even as Christ must be experiencing great sadness, the painting’s focus seems to diffuse focus from Christ, although one does not look away from this painting quickly. Even though Christ is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6), he would not have wallowed in his sorrows with any of his family or friends. Still a perfect man, he did not become the savior until he finished his father’s mission through his death and resurrection. As this painting depicts him as a mortal, it is not contradictory that the focus of the painting seems to be not only Christ, but a deflection of attention from him.
The curator describing the paintings mentioned that light seems to emanate from Christ’s face, but I disagree. I think that the painting is meant to illustrate a very dark and melancholy aura. Light comes from some source above Christ, and shines on his face. I think this illustrates that there is always some source of truth for everyone, including Jesus. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene, he prayed to his Father in his moment of need, and an angel was sent to strengthen him. Even Jesus turned to some other source for strength. Extrapolating this must lead us to conclude that we must also look for strength and truth elsewhere. Our minds must remain open to other possibilities than the ones we may always look to inwardly, or ones that have become intuition to us.
Images and symbols convey great meaning. Whether or not the artist or artists intended certain messages or meanings is hard to say, but any conclusions a beholder finds relevant I believe has value and importance.