According to a press report, a New York City man is suing the Metropolitan Museum of Art for portraying paintings of Jesus as a Caucasian blond, an act the man claimed is discriminating against him.
The suit claims a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by businesses and institutions that provide a “public accommodation.”
The plaintiff Justin Renel Joseph has stated that seeing Christ with blond hair and light skin caused him “personal stress” because the depictions are “offensive aesthetic whitewashing,” since Jesus, as a person of Middle Eastern descent, would have had darker hair and skin, according to the New York Post.
Joseph is representing himself in the legal matter.
The report noted that a very large body of scholarship, within the religious and art-historical worlds, now exists that has been devoted to the appearance of Jesus, his race, and depiction in art.
It further noted, however, that there is no description of Jesus’ appearance given in the Bible, other than that written in Isaiah 53:2, the King James version, which states he “hath no form or comeliness.”
“The implication that someone who possesses physical features like the plaintiff could not be the important historical and public figure of Jesus Christ . . . caused the plaintiff to feel, among other things, rejected and unaccepted by society,” says the suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
In the meantime, The Met has defended the classical paintings in its collection according to the Post.
“When they were painted, it was typical for artists to depict subjects with the same identity as the local audience,” Met spokeswoman Elyse Topalian explains. “This phenomenon occurs in many other cultures as well.”
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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