Sallman’s Head of Christ: The History of an Image

Morgan, David. “Sallman’s Head of Christ: The History of an Image.” Christian Century 109(28):868-870. October 7, 1992.

David Morgan surveys the enormous religious and cultural appeal of Warner Sallman’s 1940 painting Head of Christ, believing it to be a “popular classic” among American Protestants which portrays Christ as an earnest, trustworthy and accessible savior who invites personal and private devotion and legitimizes the principle of submissiveness to higher authority. Sallman’s image, strongly suggestive of artist Léon Lhermitte’s 1892 The Friend of the Humble, serves as a window on the nature and power of images in Protestant Christian belief. As a popular classic, it confirms rather than challenges popular beliefs which, for Protestants through much the 20th century, concerned matters of personal piety and security in the face uncertainty and secularism. Morgan finds that the Head of Christ, like all Christian sacred art, serves a mediating purpose between the New Testament and today in an attempt to help the modern believer measure his or her life against the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Host Organization : 
Anderson University