In the first few centuries after the death of Jesus, there was much debate in the nascent Christian community on whether or not imagery should have a place within Christian worship (Mullett). These internal deliberations, coupled with the growing tensions between Christians and the Roman pagan majority of the empire, meant that for many early Christians, visual manifestations of their faith was not standard practice. It is to this period before 313 CE, that most scholars point to when discussing the first emergence of identifiable Christian art (Mullett). Often cited as “pagan in style and Christian in subject”, the Christian art from this era is largely symbolic and appropriative of pagan motifs- so that often it is only the context of the work, which allows it to be identified as Christian (Hood 5) (Stokstad 16). Yet, several extant examples show the beginnings of the vibrant visual culture that would eventually develop and evolve into the canon of Christian art which we know today. One such example can be found in The Good Shepherd fresco which decorated the domed ceiling of the Priscilla Catacomb in Rome. Pulling from Classical motifs, The Good Shepherd is presented with the stylistic tenants of Late Antiquity, yet also works to showcase the incipient symbolism that was developing for the newly emergent religion, by creating images which contemporary Romans and newly converted Christians could relate to.
Crystal has a MA in the History of Art from Courtauld Institute of Art as well as a BFA in Art History from the Academy of Art University.