EGYPTIANISING (COPTICISING) CHRIST
In a previous article, I have spoken about the Monastery of Saint Apollo at Bawit, Egypt, and the oldest-known Coptic icon, that of Christ and Abbot Mena. One can observe in the brilliant paintings at that Monastery of Saint Apollo the lively and expressive facial features of the individuals painted – all inspired by local types. All nations have imaged Christ on their own kind, and the Copts are no exception.
I show here above part of the mural painting at Bawit that shows Christ flanked by two angels (below, I show the whole painting): it is dated to the 6th/7th century. In Christ’s facial features and physiognomy one can recognise a Copt, an Egyptian man in his early thirties. This is how the Coptic artist Egyptianised (Copticised) Christ (if I can express it in this way): large, almond-shaped eyes, straight nose and dark, curly hair. The physiognomy (the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character) of Christ here is Egyptian – Christian Egyptian or Copt.