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Saint John the Evangelist (Saint Jean l'Évangeliste)

James Tissot

European Art

For his narrative of the life of Christ, Tissot created a “harmony” of the Gospels, combining the separate accounts of Jesus’ life attributed to the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four New Testament texts differ from one another in theological emphasis and tone. A harmony, a literary form traced to the second-century Christian writer Tatian, seeks to reconcile the differences among the four Gospels and to piece together one continuous chronology of Jesus’ life, verse by verse.

Tissot created his own distinctive narrative through this synthesizing process, producing five “chapters” derived from the Gospel sources: the Holy Childhood, the Ministry, Holy Week, the Passion, and the Resurrection. He paid homage to the individual Gospel writers by painting a portrait of each.

Very occasionally, in order to fill out the narrative, the artist illustrated an episode from the Apocrypha (early Christian writings not included in the New Testament), though he was always careful to select passages consistent with the depiction of the Holy Family in the Gospels.

MEDIUM Watercolor wash over graphite on off-white wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Sheet: 13 11/16 x 9 13/16 in. (34.8 x 24.9 cm) Image: 13 11/16 x 9 13/16 in. (34.8 x 24.9 cm) Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)
    SIGNATURE Signed top right: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.53
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
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