Why is the “Jesus the Teacher” statue beardless?

Sculptor Ben Fortunado Marcune watches over the installation of Jesus the Teacher,

Sculptor Ben Fortunado Marcune watches over the installation of Jesus the Teacher,

The reaction to the new “Jesus the Teacher” statue on campus has been incredibly positive; it has quickly become a place on campus to gather, to pray, and to reflect.

However, one question has been asked over and over and over: where is his beard?

To find out, we asked the sculptor, Ben Fortunado Marcune. Since the image of Jesus with a beard has become so entrenched in our expectations, Marcune was fully expecting this beardless version to generate some curiosity, and he graciously shared his thoughts:

“I knew inquiries would be made about why the statue of ‘Jesus the Teacher’ is beardless.  The broader subject itself is fascinating: what did Jesus look like?  We do not know the answer.  No one can say whether or not Jesus had a beard, whether he was tall or short, what color his eyes were, or what kind of clothing he wore. But I can give you a synopsis of my thinking about his face, which resulted in the head of Jesus the Teacher.  I did considerable research before completing the face.

“Many paintings and statues of Jesus show him bearded.  This became widespread with Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘Last Supper.’  The depiction of Jesus there bears an unmistakable resemblance to Leonardo’s portrait of Cesare Borgia.  If you compare the two, you cannot miss the likeness, including the beards.  I simply do not believe that the message or meaning of Jesus the Teacher turns on facial hair.  I wanted his face to be fully shown.  See, for example, Michelangelo’s ‘Last Judgment, Christ the Judge.’ This magnificent segment of the Sistine Chapel shows a beardless Christ, young and strong.  That is what I wanted.  DaVinci himself drew a beardless Christ in his wonderful pastel, ‘The Redeemer.’  In fact, there are many beautiful artistic depictions of Christ without a beard.  I have given you two, but there are more all over the world.  Christ should, I believe, resemble all of us.  He should not be an idealized Greco-Roman prototype.” 

The Redeemer (Leonardo da Vinci) Head of Christ

Mary and Christ detail from The Last Judgment (Michelangelo)