March 14, 2011

Unusual Depictions of Jesus Week: Feminine Portrayals of Jesus

Throughout history Christan mythology has been depicted with great variety.  Because images of Jesus are so common in the history of art, I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the more unusual works.

Today I'm posting several paintings of Jesus that are strangely feminine.  In some instances, his femininity is so extreme that it appears he was painted as a bearded woman or as having a male body with a female head.  I assume that the thought process behind this decision was to make Jesus appear non-aggressive and benevolent, however, I find it strange that rather than looking to the features of non-aggressive and benevolent males, these artists looked to the features of non-males.  Though some of these images depict Jesus as a boy or as young man, these works still seem to be more like paintings of girls and young women and if I didn't know they were supposed to be males I would have assumed they were females.

Unknown artist's Christ Child with Passion Symbols

Guido Reni's Christ Embracing Saint John Baptist

Carlo Dolci's The Young Jesus with a Wreath of Flowers

Unknown artist

Matteo Rosselli Jesus and John the Baptist

This painting in particular appears to be a woman with a beard.

This one also appears to be more like a bearded woman than a man.


Although I find these feminine portrayals of Jesus to be very unusual I am not wholly shocked by them because I have seen similarly Christian works with even more extreme portrayals of males with female attributes.  For instance, there are many images of the Archangel Michael that have heads that I can only describe as female attached to male bodies.  Here are some examples of these exceptionally androgynous figures:

Josef Moroder-Lusenberg


Luca Giordano

Guido Reni



  1. Justified in the case of the angels, as angels, being purely spiritual beings, don't really have gender.

    1. Since angels don't exist not only is it true to say that they do not have gender, but it's equally true to say they are not devoid of gender.

    2. Actually angels do exist and based on what we read from the King James Bible they seem to be male.

    3. >King James Bible
      >No fiction
      Pick one

  2. one theory is these paintings have a sexual undertone in them, replacing the base sexual desire for women with the "holy" love for the Lord.

  3. A discarnate intelligence would have no gender.

  4. Jesus is supposed to represent all humanity. Depicting Him as feminized is supposed to visually express that concept. YMMV as to how successful this is in a given work.