Events in the life of Christ are vividly portrayed in illustrations by Gustave Doré of France (1832–1883). These scenes from the Savior’s life are among 241 illustrations Doré produced for the Old and New Testaments.
Doré’s Bible is significant in the history of religious illustrations. Most of the old masters had painted biblical scenes from the context of their own cultures, as if the events had taken place in their own countries and time. But Doré did not follow that traditional approach. Instead, using sources available to him, he researched the culture, dress, plants, animals, architecture, and landscape of the Bible and attempted to represent them with honesty.
Doré chose not only dramatic, grandiose scenes—but also quiet, intimate moments. And he breathed realism and passion into them, bringing the stories to life.
The art form Doré used was wood engraving, a standard process for duplicating illustrations in books during the nineteenth century. First, the artist drew the scene upon a block of wood. Next, an engraver made a series of cuts—of varying depths and widths—in the same block of wood, reproducing the artist’s design. (Two names appear at the bottom of each of Doré’s illustrations—his own and the engraver’s.) Then, through a process called electrotyping, a metal plate was made from the original wood block, so that the illustration could be duplicated over and over without wearing down the original. Finally, ink was placed on the metal plate, and the image was printed on paper.
Doré’s Bible first appeared in 1865. The scenes in this issue of the Tambuli are from an 1866 edition. In a later issue, we will publish additional Doré illustrations that highlight the final week of Christ’s life.