Title: The Savior
Artist: Henry Ossawa Tanner
Medium: oil on canvas mounted on plywood
Size: 74 x 55 cm
Date: c 1900-05
Luke 23:8-12: When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
Like a terminally ill patient, Jesus knows that death is around the corner. Our mortality is a frightening thing. Jesus faces it by doing what he always did: he took his concerns to God in prayer. Jesus walks into his valley of the shadow of death through the heavenly courts of God's presence.
The story of Christ’s crucifixion occupied Henry Ossawa Tanner’s mind throughout his career. The Savior shows Jesus meditating as he waits for his crown of thorns and purple robe, in which he would be mocked as the “King of the Jews.” Tanner portrayed him as a real person in contemplation and prayer rather than as an idealized figure. But the yellow color in his face and outlining his profile is like a glowing light that suggests Christ’s uniqueness as a spiritual being, able to transcend flesh and blood.
Henry Ossawa Tanner (Pittsburgh, PA 1859 - Paris, France 1937) was an African American artist who earned international acclaim for his religious paintings. His father was a prominent minister and his mother a former slave who escaped the South through the Underground Railroad. At age eleven, Tanner decided to become an artist, and nine years later the