The Image of Christ
in Indian Art
Alphonso Doss, India
From time immemorial religion
has played an important part in all our lives making an impact for
the further generations. Art has been no different as an artist's
impression always leaves an indelible mark, creating a vision for
Christ Carrying the Cross, by S. Dhanapal
The image of Christ has
been a fascinating experience for artists all over the world. Historians
believe that his enemies must have destroyed the earliest examples
of Christ's image in very early period of history. The only remains
that have been recorded are from the Early Christian period of burial
chambers in Rome 300 AD onwards, where the Christian monks painted
murals inside the monasteries and catacombs with murals and mosaic
depicting the life of Jesus as a miracle maker and redeemer.
Among various schools which
flourished in Europe, the most powerful was the Renaissance and
Borouque when artists were engaged by the church to interpret the
Bible in visual media. The artists were given freedom to create
Christian subjects from the Old and New Testaments commissioned
by the Pope and other religious leaders. The artistic personality
and dramatic life of Jesus has been a great influence on the artists.
Davinci, El Greco, Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens have tried to capture
the image as per the individual approach and style as the world
has ever known.
There was not a single artist
in the history of Religious art who has not been influenced by the
face of Jesus. His life and message not only influenced the western
world but also spread to Eastern countries much before the Dutch
and Portughese missionaries build the churches in India 1500 AD.
The Nestorian cross was installed in the very early period and also
Marthoma Syrian and Armenians also build Churches in the West Coast
of the Indian subcontinent.
The European architectural
design became very popular with the emergence of colonial rule in
India introducing Portughese, Gothic and Romenesque style transformed
the new application in Church building. Artists and architects from
Europe were brought to India to attend the works commissioned by
the missionaries which has influenced Indian artists.
Christ Carrying the Cross, by P.V. Janakiram
Madras school of arts was
started in 1850 under British administration, trained Indian artists
and craftsmen to produce decorative arts both in European and Indian
style to suit the growing artistic needs of the time. Madras school
of arts also produced talented artists in the later period under
the leadership of a well known painter and sculptor Dr. Devi Prasad
Roy Choudhury who became the Principal of Madras school of Arts
in 1927. Mr. K.C. S. Panicker succeeded as principal created the
image of Christ in both oil and painted water colour while Mr. S.
Dhanapal and Mr. P.V. Janakiram made bronze and metal sculptures
depicting the image of Jesus in 1962 - 65. "Christ carrying
the cross" was a popular composition done by S. Dhanapal
in Bronze which was selected for a National Academy award in 1962.
The other sculpture named "Christ carrying the cross"
is a group sculpture, in which Christ carrying the cross
with his followers depict and express grief and sorrow.
In both these sculptures one can see the face and the figuration
following Indian contemporary style of expression. The eyes and
elongated face of Christ convey a deep sense pf compassion and tolerance
which are the characteristic portrayal of Christ. 72-year-old
artist Mr. S. Dhanapal expired March 2000 after leaving his other
creative works in Madras.
sculptor P.V. Janakiram, aged 72 disciple of K.C.S. Panicker and
S. Dhanapal has also been influenced by the suffering of Jesus Christ.
He made several figures of Christ, Madonna, Crucifixion conveying
the Christian spirit in his work. The most striking one is the sculpture
showing Christ stretching his hands expressing love, unity done
in copper sheet metal. Welding is employed to fix the copper rod
to suggest hair and beard. The whole sculpture is oxidized except
the centre area where the brass sheet is welded in the front portion
on which decorative elements are found with geometric pattern to
beautify the sculpture. The original is in the collection of the
museum of contemporary arts in Madras college of Arts, Madras. Janakiram
passed away in 1995 in Madras.
These are only a few of
the many who have expressed their love and devotion for the subject
that has effused so much admiration and love through the ages.