The Life of Christ: Painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–90)

Jay M. Todd


The Life of Christ:

Twenty-eight years ago, a selection of paintings on the life of Jesus by nineteenth-century Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch was published for members of the Church (see Improvement Era, Nov. 1962). Since then, scenes from that selection have been used many times in Church manuals and publications. Now, in this issue of the Ensign, they are published together again to tell the matchless story of the Lord.

Eighteen of the twenty paintings reproduced here are on the walls of the oratory in the Frederiksborg Castle church. Today, castle and church are a museum of national history and a Danish treasure. Because of the paintings’ utility for Church publications, representatives of the Church approached Frederiksborg Museum officials last year. We desired to rephotograph the paintings and asked if it would be possible for the scenes to be taken from the walls to receive better photographic lighting. Museum officials accepted the request, concluding also that while they were down, the paintings should be cleaned to again make vivid colors that had been dimmed by a century of accumulating dust while on public display.

Following this cleaning, the museum photographed the paintings; eighteen are reproduced on the following pages. In addition to the Frederiksborg paintings, two other paintings by Bloch are printed here: the scene at the pool of Bethesda, located at Bethesda Dansk Indre Mission, in Copenhagen, and the scene of Thomas kneeling before the resurrected Jesus, located at the church in Uggerlose, near Copenhagen.

The scenes, of course, are from the imagination and skill of Carl Bloch, a merchant’s son who as a boy prepared to be a midshipman. By his early teens, however, Carl’s artistic talents began to flower. So, in 1849, at age fifteen, he began attending Copenhagen’s Academy of Art. At age twenty, he was exhibiting his work, and at twenty-five, he went to Rome on a travel grant.

Rome served as his “home base” until 1865. There, he was influenced by the work of the Italian masters and turned his skills to painting scenes of great events. In time, he centered his focus on Danish historical events and stories of the Bible. It was a decision that would earn him great stature in Denmark throughout his career. At his life’s end, he had served as head of the Royal Academy of Art and been honored by several nations for his work.

Toward the end of his Italian studies—three years before he married a beautiful and kind girl, Alma Trepka, with whom he had eight children—31-year-old Carl Bloch received an impressive commission. He was to paint twenty-three new paintings for the rebuilt Frederiksborg Castle church oratory, which had been ravaged in an 1859 fire. Bloch worked on the paintings for the next fourteen years. For Danish art connoisseurs, Bloch’s style in the scenes was both modern and unique, and the scenery was reminiscent of life as he had seen it in Italy.

In addition to these twenty-three paintings on the life of Christ, Bloch also did at least eight large altar-pieces on the Lord’s life for other churches in Denmark and for some in Sweden. In the last two decades of his career, he cultivated etching skills, and his work was in great demand—so much so that two years before his death, a Dane wrote: Bloch has “won esteem as an outstanding painter-etcher of his time.”

For all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, however, it is the art of the Savior that we cherish. In Carl Bloch’s work we see the spirit of that which John the Beloved wrote of Jesus:

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. …

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:4–5, 11–12.)

Jay M. Todd, Managing Editor

Mary and the Angel An Angel

“The angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt … bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall … be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:30–32, 35.) (Details of Mary and the Angel.)

Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth

“When Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she … said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:41–42.) (Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth.)

The Birth of Jesus

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7.) (The Birth of Jesus.)

The Annunciation to the Shepherds

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day … a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11.) (Detail of The Annunciation to the Shepherds.)

The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” (Luke 2:46–47.) (The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple.)

Get Thee Hence, Satan

“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt. 4:10.) (Get Thee Hence, Satan.)

The Marriage at Cana

“The ruler of the feast … tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;). … This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.” (John 2:9, 11.) (The Marriage at Cana.)

Christ Cleansing the Temple

“When he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, … And said unto them … , Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:15–16.) (Christ Cleansing the Temple.)

Christ and the Samaritan Woman

“Jesus … said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water … shall be in him a well … springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13–14.) (Christ and the Samaritan Woman.)

The Sermon on the Mount

“When he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:1–3.) (The Sermon on the Mount.)

Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda

“A certain man … had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:5–6.) (Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda.)

The Transfiguration

“Jesus … leadeth [Peter, James, and John] up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. … And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.” (Mark 9:2, 4.) (The Transfiguration.)

Christ Healing the Blind Man

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. … He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. … He went … and came seeing.” (John 9:1, 6–7.) (Christ Healing the Blind Man.)

The Resurrection of Lazarus

“He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes.” (John 11:43–44.) (The Resurrection of Lazarus.)

Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me

“Then were there brought unto him little children, … and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:13–14.) (Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me.)

The Last Supper

“He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15–16.) (The Last Supper.)

Peter’s Denial

“The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered … how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61–62.) (Peter’s Denial.)

The Crucifixion

“Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, … said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:28, 30.) (The Crucifixion.)

The Burial of Christ

“Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes. … Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and … a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus.” (John 19:40–42.) (The Burial of Christ.)

The Doubtful Thomas

“Then saith he to Thomas, … behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:27–28.) (The Doubtful Thomas/Superstock.)