One of the several ways in which Christ is depicted is through the use of gold leaf and silver embellishment. Jim Triggs, the executive director of "The Saint John's Bible" Heritage Program, states: “Finally, wherever you see the gold and silver on the pages represents the presence of the Divine, the presence of God.” This page of the exhibit examines the exclusion of flat color in order to visually tell the story of Jesus.
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Susan Sink, author of "The Art of the Saint John's Bible," echoes Jim Triggs' words when she writes that gold leaf was used “each place that Jesus reveals his divinity” (255). In the artwork, Birth of Christ, we see a shaft of golden light bursting from the manger where Jesus lays. Where we would expect to see a soft and fragile newborn baby is a mighty stream of pure gold. When the artists deliberated how they would portray Jesus entering his earthly home, they looked to a verse in Luke. Beautifully, Luke 1:78-79 states, "By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (244).
It is clear why an older Jesus may be embellished with gold leaf, but the bold use of it to depict the nativity scene may strike us more powerful. Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God, and this was his purpose from the day he was born to the day he was crucified. To the Christians, the birth of Jesus was so much more than a birth; it changed the world and humanity forever.
The artwork, Crucifixion, draws on the same idea that Jesus was more powerful than we could comprehend. Susan Sink explains that“this illumination... draws on traditional Christian representations and at the same time departs from that vision” (255). We see the cross and the nails, but it is clear that this is not an execution of a mortal man. Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins, and how else could Donald Jackson and his team have visually told us that this was far from a typical death. For readers of the Saint John's Bible, the gold leaf reminds us in our time of sorrow that Jesus could not be killed. Sink beautifully reminds us that "the crucifixion with all its pain does not diminish the glory of God" (257). Very intentionally, the illustrators and artists behind this Bible chose to depict some of Jesus' most divine and holy moments with a medium that transcends typical color.
In summation, there is no better way of encapsulating the artists' goal than how Susan Sink explained it in her book. Sink proclaims, “Both the crucifixion and the nativity are times when Jesus’ humanity seems most in evidence. However, in both cases, The Saint John’s Bible represents Jesus as pure divinity, an abstract figure of gold” (257). Christians believe that Jesus was both God and man, and a figure of gold indicates this very divinity and humanity.
For clarification, each image on this page is immaculate and beautifully created. There are only lengthy descriptions and analyses for two of the artworks for fear of redundancy. It was most useful to explore The Birth of Christ and Crucifixion, but that should not take away from the importance of the depiction of Jesus in the other five images. In the Baptism of Jesus, we see Jesus in the distant background as a golden figure while we see John in the foreground. In Word Made Flesh and Peter's Confession, Jesus is both depicted in gold and the only visible figure. In Road to Emmaus and Jesus with Mary and Martha, alternatively, Jesus is in the top corners of the piece and we see the backs of the people who he is addressing at the bottom.