THE COMMANDMENT OF THE CROSS: ‘The Pharisees Question Jesus’ by James Tissot

Jacques Joseph Tissot, later anglicized as James Tissot, was born near the busy port of Nantes, France in 1836. At the age of 17, he embarked upon his artistic mission. His career spanned three successful periods. In the first phase in Paris (1859-1870), he enjoyed great success as a high-society painter. His leisured and charmed life was soon skewered among the struggles of the French Revolution.

The fall of the Second Empire in 1870 and the bloody Franco Prussian war in 1871 compelled him to flee to London. After a successful 11 year sojourn, he suffered an emotional disaster. In 1882, his dearly loved mistress, Kathleen Newton died of consumption.

While working on a series of paintings themed, ‘The Woman of Paris’, James Tissot visited the Church of St. Sulpice in order to sketch the portrait of a choir singer. Here he encountered a vision of Christ tending to the broken and the down trodden. This was his route to Damascus; his Metanoia! The experience he had led to a renewal of his faith and a shift in his artistic focus.

He took off on a research trip to Holy Land, beginning his 10 year campaign to illustrate the New Testament. The result was ‘The Life of Christ’ popularly called ‘the Tissot Bible.’ It is a monumental series of 350 water coloured imagery with profuse archaeological observation and lucid realism.

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