(active in 3rd century in Rome)

The Good Shepherd

around 200
Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

The Catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome are situated in a quarry that during Roman time was used for burials.

Originally in the Catacombs there was a series of underground burial chambers; the most important of these are the "arenarium" or sand-quarry, also the cryptoporticus (an underground area to get away from the summer heat), and the hypogeum with the tombs of the Acilius Glabrio family. The noblewoman Priscilla, a member of this family, granted the Church to use the property.

Some of the walls and ceilings in the catacombs display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. They contain many wall paintings representing saints and early Christian symbols. There is also the "Greek Chapel", a square chamber with an arch which contains 3rd century frescoes interpreting Old and New Testaments scenes. Above the apse, there is a representation of the Last Judgment. Near this figure, the Madonna and the Child and the Prophet Isaiah are represented.

In the Cubiculum of the Velatio (Cappella della Velata) Christ as the Good Shepherd is depicted on the ceiling, directly above the scenes from the Christian woman's life.

Christian art began as symbolic and humble holding many metaphors. Artists would try to take symbols that may have been pagan or that represented something non-Christian to make it have a more significant meaning. It is believed that Christians got the idea of portraying Christ as a shepherd from archaic Greek art. This symbol would remain in Christian art until around 500 AD. In this fresco, the young Christ is holding a lamb over his shoulders, which was seen in some Roman art hundreds of years before. Christ is very simple, he does not have a beard or elegant clothing. He also lacks a halo, which emphasizes the humility and simplicity of the early Christian art.

The painter of the Good Shepherd in the Catacomb of Priscilla was familiar undoubtedly with Roman copies of Greek sculpture and also familiar with paintings of pastoral scenes in Roman homes.