At the Y

From Under the Bed to the Louvre

Head of Christ, Circle of Rembrandt
Head of Christ, Circle of Rembrandt

The first BYU-owned work to hang in the Louvre Museum of Paris—on loan this last summer—once had humbler accommodations.

Ed Lind (BS ’81), interim director of BYU’s Musem of Art, was dubious when he first heard that a woman in California had a portrait of Christ by Rembrandt to donate to BYU. It was sitting under her bed.

“We told [her representative] we’d love to see it,” Lind says, “which is what we tell everyone. But usually people just have a print or something else.” The representative brought the painting to Provo wrapped in a blanket. “As soon as he came in, set it on a table, and took the blanket off—it was stunning,” says Lind. “We could tell it was the real deal.”

The work, titled Head of Christ, is a Circle of Rembrandt painting done by one of Rembrandt’s associates, though Rembrandt likely worked on it as well. The painting is notable as an extreme departure from traditional 17th-century portraits of Christ because the artist selected an ethnically Jewish young man to sit as the model. The Savior is portrayed with dark hair and dark eyes instead of the traditional idealized European features.

The painting joined the Louvre’s Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibit April 21 to July 18. After subsequent stops at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts, the work will return to BYU in 2012.

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