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Seeing Salvation Hardcover – 23 Mar 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (23 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563551119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563551119
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 19.2 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Were you, like thousands of others, outraged by Mark Wallinger's vulnerably life-sized Millennium sculpture Ecce Homo which stood in London's Trafalgar Square because it didn't "look like Jesus"? In fact no one knows what Jesus looked like because there was no portraiture in the Jewish tradition. But images of Jesus in art galleries offer centuries of interpretations. Each artist--from late Roman, to Michelangelo, Murillo, Stanley Spencer and the rest across two millennia of Christian history--meditates in, and mediates for, his own times. "The Word made paint" is how Neil MacGregor, Director of The National Gallery, and Erika Langmuir, Open University Professor of Art History, describe it.

Lavishly illustrated, Seeing Salvation was written in connection with a National Gallery Exhibition of the same name (26 February--7 May 2000), a nationwide lecture programme and four BBC TV programmes, presented by Neil MacGregor during April 2000. Yet it stands on its own and requires no knowledge of any of those.

The book is unpretentious and never patronises. It unravels the Christian background, scripture and belief with unobtrusive elegance as it goes along. You don't have to be a believer to respond either. Rembrandt's exquisite Nunc Dimittis, for example, shows old Simeon lovingly holding the infant Christ. He and the prophetess Anna could be any overjoyed grandparents at the end of their lives. The baby is their promise for the future and the sense is universal.

It's wryly witty too. "The learned ingenious devout Rubens", for example, "made a virtue of necessity" when commissioned to produce an altarpiece for Antwerp Cathedral. The sponsors, The Guild of Arquebusiers, wanted their patron saint, St Christopher, featured--but that smacked too dangerously of legend for the Council of Trent. Result: the magnificent Deposition of Christ in which the body is being tenderly and collaboratively lowered from the cross. "Christopher" means "bearer of Christ". --Susan Elkin


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. G. Mccarthy on 15 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neil MacGregor is now enjoying fame for his history of the world looked at through artefacts; this book will be less well known but is no less brilliant. Here the author demonstrates the importance of Christian art for all people, believers or not. He does seem to have a deep sympathy for the life of Christ and beliefs about him.

Through an analysis of various paintings, mostly from the early and late Renaissance, MacGregor reveals, quite convincingly, the symbolism, politics and sometimes subversive qualities of Christian art. After reading this well written and well conceived book, you will feel that you have learned something new, and that alone makes this book a good place to start.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By gerardpeter on 30 Oct 2013
Format: Hardcover
Christmas approaches and, even as traditional belief fades, images of the Nativity appear again in card shops, charity shops and art gallery bookshops. The most beautiful were produced originally hundreds of years ago. But what do they mean? Why is the baby Jesus shown like this - he doesn't often look like a newborn baby, and he is barely covered by a thin piece of cloth on a cold night. What kind of a mother was Mary? These are some of the many questions answered.
The authors are Neil Macgregor, then director of the National Gallery, before moving on to the British Museum, and Erika Langmuir, also an eminent scholar.
The authors consider how Christ has been represented in art from the Rome of the Catacombs to Mark Wallinger's Ecce Homo in 2008. How should an artist represent someone of whom there are no contemporary images or descriptions? At least as important is that the artist had also to do more than project a physical "likeness" but also provide a spiritually potent and theologically meaningful image. As an artist he wants to craft a thing of beauty, too.
The text is relatively short, but there are scores of beautiful illustrations of the sculptures and pictures. Some of the most wonderful art ever reproduced is here and reproduced well - the Isenheim Altarpiece, Titian's Deposition, Stanley Spencer's Resurrection, the Turin Shroud. It is arranged thematically - Christ as an infant, Christ during his earthly ministry, on the Cross, after the Resurrection and finally at the Second Coming. The "meaning", the theology of different pieces is really well-explained. It is apparent that Christian art conveys complex, even elusive ideas. I assume the author(s) write(s) as a Christian. This is not a criticism. In fact, I think it explains much of their understanding as most of the artists, known or unknown, placed themselves in that tradition. For me, it reinvigorated thoughts and beliefs dormant, if not lost.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Worthington on 30 Sep 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that refreshes ones love of Jesus Christ
and the people of faith who have honoured Him throughout
the ages.
The book explains key artistic themes that illustrate
the past, present and future of the church.
This book is an invaluable source of inspiration for
seekers of truth and all interested in the history of
christian art.
To have a copy is well worth the search!
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