DENVER, Colorado — Peering through his magnifying glass in a draped, darkened room with padded carpets, the Rev. Paul Kottke reverently examines every inch of a Rembrandt masterpiece featuring the biblical scene of Jesus in the courtyard with Pontius Pilate.
He notes the exquisite detail of the depiction of Christ’s public humiliation — what he considers one of the most poignant moments in the Savior’s life — discovering that even secondary figures in the etching are just as detailed as the central characters.
From this the man of faith took a lesson from the master artist. “The people on the edge are ever as much part of the story as the people right at the center,” he said.
Kottke, of the University Park United Methodist Church, is just one of many church leaders who brought their parishioners to see the exhibit, “From Dürer to Rembrandt: The Renaissance of Faith in Art,” sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Educators, artists, art lovers and government officials are also among the 30,000 guests who have seen the 200-plus original works depicting the life of Christ by Rembrandt and other masters, all of which have been made available to the exhibit by local art collector Shawn Merriman, a member of the Church.
The exhibit has been shown elsewhere previously, but Merriman felt this would be a good opportunity to share the works in his hometown. Using four Latter-day Saint buildings, organizers have taken the artwork to communities in different parts of the greater Denver region over the past several weeks.
The etchings, drawings and woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden, Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt, were originally commissioned as biblical art after the innovation of movable type, which led to the printing of the Gutenberg Bible.
The fragile etchings, printed on a rag paper, require meticulous care and demand a minimum exposure to light. “For every hour they are exhibited,” art owner Merriman says, “they require three hours of darkness.”
Despite the demanding maintenance requirements, the exquisite detail of the etchings remains remarkably intact, even after more than 500 years. In order to see the fine details of the art on display, each guest is given a magnifying glass upon entering the exhibit.
The opportunity to view such distinguished pieces of art is usually limited to a museum visit, and just five museums in the United States boast a similar etchings collection, said Merriman.
“This is like being in the print room of the Louvre or the Metropolitan or the National Gallery,” exclaimed Timothy Standring, curator of painting and sculpture at the Denver Art Museum.
“I am still in awe of seeing those beautifully moving and crafted prints. As a printmaker and most especially as a Christian, I was moved beyond words at seeing the prints and the imagery they depicted,” said Barbara Hale, art department faculty member at the Metropolitan State College in Denver.
Other visitors to the exhibit made similar comments. “It brought to life the scriptures and the people in that time,” one guest said. Another wrote, “The exhibit deepened my testimony of Christ and his sacrifice for me.”
Others expressed gratitude for the free exhibit and left written comments. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit — repeatedly — many of the great museums of the world,” one said. “Never have I experienced a more lucid and illuminating presentation of this genre of art. Thank you for the artistically and spiritually moving opportunity you have provided to so many with this exhibit.”
A senior Latter-day Saint leader, Elder Steven E. Snow, told the Denver Post : “Anything we can do to bring people closer to gospel principles, we should do. And this is phenomenal.”
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.