For those of us who have what is called a “Personal Relationship” with Jesus, that relationship for us is very personal, as it should be. We have shared some of our most significant struggles, our most intimate thoughts, our greatest fears and the moments of our boundless joy with Jesus. The quickest way to alienate someone is to challenge their view of who Jesus is to them. We get the message “Don’t mess with my Jesus” loud and clear. Well, I am not going to mess with your Jesus, but I hope to challenge you to think about more than the Jesus of your childhood.
As a young person growing up in the Catholic church I was exposed to my share of Christian iconology. One of the first images I remember of the Savior of the World looked something like this. The Christ Child holding the globus cruciger. The cross represents Christ’s dominion over the orb of the world.
Another image of Salvator Mundi is this one from a contemporary of Leonardo
da Vinci. Hans Memling from the Netherlands created this image. Again, you can see the Savior of the world holding the globus cruciger, also known as “the orb and cross”. The orb surmounted a cross has been a Christian symbol of authority since the Middle Ages.
And then we have the Salvator Mundi by the master himself, Leonardo da Vinci. This masterpiece was thought to be lost to history until it was rediscovered, restored, and included in Luke Syson’s major Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, London, in 2011–12. The painting was sold at auction on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s in New York for US$450.3 million to Prince Badr bin Abdullah (a stand-in for Mohammed bin Salman), setting a record for most expensive painting ever sold at public auction. And yes, the infamous MBS has again hidden the painting from public view in an obscure location. One of the mysteries of this painting is the orb in Jesus’ left hand. Unlike many other images of the globus cruciger this one is clear. Some say the painting is not authentic because Leonardo would have known that a solid crystal or glass orb distorts and inverts and reverses the image behind it. This image does not do that.
Others say the orb illustrates Leonardo’s genius. They say instead, Leonardo painted the orb as if it were a hollow glass bubble that does not refract or distort the light passing through it. They say, “he was subtly trying to impart a miraculous quality to Christ and his orb” and the orb represents not the earth but it contains the universe. Look closely at the orb.
As the images or icons of the Salvator Mundi have evolved over time has your Jesus evolved from your childhood Jesus to an adult Jesus. Is Jesus, the Savior of the world or as Leonardo depicts the Savior of the universe?