The Christ as the Good Shepherd is a marble statue nearly one meter (3 ¼ ft) high dating back to 300-350 AD. It is not often seen outside the Vatican Museums; however, even photographs of this statue are enough to amaze the observer’s imagination. However, the value of this statue lies not only in its beautiful appearance. The purpose of this essay is both a description and analysis of this work of art and its place in the culture of the ancient world.
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The statue depicts a young shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Firstly, the observer’s attention is captured by the young face of the shepherd, which is turned to the animal. The shepherd holds the animal by the legs, firmly, but carefully, and the sheep itself rests against his head, covered by long hair (“Christ as the good shepherd,” 2017). The details with which the wool of the sheep and the curly hair of the boy are filled deserve recognition. It can’t be said that they are made with photographic accuracy; however, both the hair and the wool look very soft and curly, even though they are made of cold marble.
The next object that the observer’s gaze falls on is the clothing of the shepherd. It is a simple tunic, the only addition to which is the shepherd’s bag thrown over his shoulder. However, the quality with which this tunic is made deserves special attention. The creator of this statue was able to create from hard marble an image of airy and lightweight fabric that carelessly hangs from the shoulder of the young man, gathering in light folds.
Following the classical traditions of plastics and proportions, the body of the young man is executed with impeccable accuracy and detail, in full accordance with all the rules of traditional art. Finally, the sculpture ends with the bare feet of the young man standing on a round platform (“Christ as the good shepherd,” 2017). Looking at the statue again, one can note its simplicity, but at the same time elegance.
This sculpture is not in vain, located in the Vatican Museum, and is exhibited on rare occasions only at exhibitions in Rome. This statue was made in Rome near the end of the Roman Empire (“The Good Shepherd”, 2017). It originates from the famous theme in Christianity of comparing God’s care for people with a shepherd who cares for his sheep. In the parable of the sheep and the shepherd that Jesus tells, it says that when the shepherd found his lost sheep, he laid it on his shoulders and rejoiced. This tale served as the basis for many works of art, so we can safely assume that these lines might have served as inspiration for this statue.
The theme of a shepherd and a sheep was prevalent in classical art and was widely met even in everyday life. Since there is no explicit knowledge about the origin of this sculpture, one cannot discard the option that it is merely an image of a peaceful scene from rural life (“John 10, The Good Shepherd”, 2017). A similar image also existed in the pagan culture of the ancient Greek cult. Often the symbols of paganism and Christianity were located very close to each other, and their motives were intertwined. Nevertheless, as a work of art, it provides us with a look at the culture of that time and allows us to understand it a little better by looking at the cultural motives of people of that era
The Christ as the Good Shepherd is an incredibly beautiful statue, whose origin, unfortunately, is unknown. It is because of the lack of specificity regarding its creation, the figure depicted can have many interpretations, both religious and domestic. The presence of three versions explaining the origin of this sculpture only gives us a complete look at the culture of that time, revealing it to us immediately in three aspects: Christian, pagan and rural.
Christ as the good shepherd [Image]. (2017). Web.
John 10, the good shepherd – Late Classical. (2017). Web.