Art History 101
The Good Shepherd: Change
The Good Shepherd represents someone who is a miraculous healer and protector of his flock; he would lay down his life for his sheep under no circumstances. In Early Christian Rome the Good Shepherd’s depiction and representation had changed significantly from the fourth to fifth century. The Good Shepherd, Orants, And The Story Of Jonah is a painted ceiling in the Catacomb of Saint Peter and Marcellinus, Rome done in the fourth century and The Good Shepherd is a mosaic at the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna in the fifth century. Both of these works of art depict a change in the Good Shepherd in the time frame of one century.
The Good Shepherd, Orants, And The Story of Jonah is a painting showing Jesus in the middle as the shepherd and the story of Jonah is around him in what are known as lunettes. The story of Jonah and his journey is very symbolic of Christ’s life:
Jonah was cast from a ship, into a belly of a whale where Jonah spent three days and three nights in the whale's belly. This action is a symbolic foreshadow of Christ's entombment. Jonah was released from the whale and thrown on shore, sitting beneath a vine, the vine a symbol of Christ's resurrection. The vine is the wine which symbolizes Christ's blood.
If one looks carefully one can see that the structure of the painting is in the shape of a cross symbolizing that Christ and his story are very strongly represented. In between the lunettes (arch) are Orants lifting their arms to the sky as if they were praying to God. Christianity was a religion of the poor at this point so depicting Christ as a shepherd was more relatable. In the mosaic The Good Shepherd, Jesus is depicted in a much different sense. Jesus is no longer a young shepherd boy but has now turned into a man. He is wearing a purple and gold royal robe, a golden halo surrounding his head and has a long golden staff that ends in a cross instead of