Jesus Christ had much darker skin than depictions by famous artists

Jesus Christ had much darker skin that what is portrayed in nearly all the famous paintings in Europe and North America, including portraits by Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Warner Sallman, says Professor Richard Neave, a retired British anatomical artist.

Professor Richard Neave, who used to work at the University of Manchester, used forensic data from the craniums (skulls) of ancient first century Jewish adult males and produced a portrait of the face of Jesus Christ.

Prof. Neave concluded that Jesus had dark (very tanned) skin, short curly hair, a wide face, dark eyes, and a bushy beard. He definitely did not have wavy light brown or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, fair skin, a long face, and either a flowing beard or a clean-shaven face.

Jesus Christ probably looked like thisJesus Christ probably looked like this man, says Professor Richard Neave. (Image: Facebook)

Put simply, Jesus Christ was not Caucasian

Before forensic science existed, the old masters, in fact all artists, had to use their imagination to create a portrait of Jesus. The New Testament has no physical descriptions of him, and there are no surviving sketches from the time. Most artists painted him as someone local people could relate to.

Prof. Neave used computerised tomography to create slices of X-ray images of the skulls. He evaluated the skulls thickness in certain areas, and used this data to recreate the skin and data of the face of the Son of God.

He also studied the Bible carefully to make sure his estimate of Jesus’ hair length was accurate, and used ancient drawings at archaeological sites to determine his hair colour.

Prof. Neave stressed that his depiction of Jesus is the best guess possible, according to data and technology available today – it is not a 100% definite picture.

Jesus Christ painting by Warner SallmanThe Head of Christ, also known as the Sallman Head. It was painted in 1940 by American artist Warner Sallman (1892-1968). It had been reproduced more than half-a-billion times across the world by the year 2000. Jesus definitely did not look this man, most forensic artists say. (Image: Wikipedia)

Most experts believe Prof. Neave’s depiction of Christ is probably much more accurate than the paintings by the old masters. His features were most likely typical of the Middle Eastern Jews of the Galilee area of northern Israel.

Range of depictions of Jesus Christ

Portraits of Jesus Christ have varied considerably across the world, and often reflect local racial characteristics.

Depictions of Jesus ChristJesus Christ has been painted to look like the people where the artist lived. The only ‘scientific’ portrait is the one on the top right.

The Coptic Church of Egypt, which separated in the 5th century, has distinctive depictions of Jesus (top left in the picture above).

The Ethiopian Church, which is also Coptic, tends to have images of Jesus with the Ethiopian appearance (top middle in the image above). In Asian countries, Christians painted Jesus with local features.

While European Christians produced paintings of Jesus with lighter skin, his hair was rarely paler than a light brown.

After Bridget of Sweden had her vision of the Virgin Mary, she was often painted with blonde hair.