Behind the strokes: DIA comes to Paluch

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Detroit Institute of Arts speaker Dan Piesko shows an example of Rembrandt’s storytelling skills in his 1655 painting “Christ Presented to the People.” In the painting, which shows Pontius Pilate asking the crowd if he should release Jesus or thief Barabbas, Rembrandt includes the Lady of Justice, with her scales tipped to signal the release of Barabbas is unjust.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – A rare exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts is drawing curious crowds, but residents and guests to Leo Paluch Senior Apartments Thursday got a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibit without leaving the building.

Dan Piesko, a volunteer with the DIA’s speaker’s bureau, visited the building to explain the stories behind Rembrandt’s famed paintings of Jesus on display now at the museum. The 64-piece display, which runs until Feb. 12, is a collaboration between the DIA, the Louvre, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art

“Being a great artist is more than putting paint on a canvas,” Piesko said. “It’s how you bring out something.”

During the hour-long program, sponsored by the Allen Park Housing Commission and the Friends of the Allen Park Libraries, Piesko showed how the 17th century Dutch painter broke the mold of the era’s traditional paintings of Jesus and how his renderings evolved throughout his career.

Though early on, Rembrandt followed the thoughts of the time that human models not be used for renderings of Jesus, his portraits eventually evolved to use Jewish men as models, and his paintings began to depict a darker-complected, “more human” Jesus rather than the blonde, fair portrayals by most artists, Piesko said.

Piesko also showed how Rembrandt blended Christian and Jewish elements in his depictions of Biblical scenes and used light and staging to tell stories, such as in “Christ Crucified Between Two Thieves,” in which he used light on the redeemed thief’s face to show that he had repented.

At the conclusion of the program, Piesko urged the audience to take their new knowledge of Rembrandt’s work and visit the exhibit in person.

“You’ve seen part of the show,” he said. “You haven’t seen the whole show.”

Gloria Fregonara, of Allen Park, said the program convinced her to make the trip to the museum.

“It was lovely, very informative,” she said. “I plan on seeing it. I’m glad I came.”