Some of the world's masterpieces contain deeper messages than what's seen at first glance.
Google Arts & Culture highlighted subtle details found in famous paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and Vermeer, proving that there's often more encoded in a canvas than what immediately meets the eye.
The same can be said about Tom Holdman's unique stained glass art depicting images of Christ for temple visitors' centers around the world for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A careful examination reveals layers of thought found within the stained glass. Every individual, hand-picked piece and intricate detail tell a grander story.
(Before reading below, take a closer look at each image and see how many of these intentional details and feelings you can identify on your own.)
"Consider the Lilies"— Paris Temple Visitors' Center
Visitors to the Paris Temple grounds are greeted by this stunning stained glass window inspired by John 3:16 and Luke 12:27 in the Bible.
At first glance, "Consider the Lilies" appears to only be a beautiful depiction of Christ standing in a field of lilies. As you look closer, you'll see that the art conveys a subtle yet more powerful message.
First, note the position of Christ's body; His outstretched arms are similar to the Christus statue at Temple Square (which is also the church's new symbol). Now notice his shoulders are leaning towards you and his left foot is stepping forward; these details give the impression that he's coming to you into his embrace. The artists placed the Savior's foot so that no matter where you're standing in front of the window, it is always facing you and moving with you. When we focus on him and draw near to him, he keeps his promise that he will draw near unto us. (James 4:8)
The white and golden hues surrounding Christ's head create the impression of a halo recognizing his divinity and his resurrected, glorified body. The hands reinforce the gift of his atonement through the nail prints in his palms and wrists.
The Easter lilies represent his overcoming the grave; what was buried in the tomb is now taken up. Christ's gift to humanity is that he will raise you up, make you whole and give you rest.
The olive tree represents his suffering for the entire human race in the Garden of Gethsemane. The art scene combines symbols of the infinite atonement including the crucifixion on the cross. The calm vegetation and rolling hills purposely do not limit Christ to one geographic location helping the viewer feel the savior of the world can reach them, wherever they may be.
All things point to Christ
Holdman made sure lines in the window point toward the Savior's countenance, guiding the viewers' eyes towards the Creator's eyes. His robe and arms, the bowing branches, the mountains, path, and olive tree all lead you subconsciously toward His face.
While you may not have access to the Paris Temple, you can still enjoy the beauty of this masterpiece in your own home. Holdman Studios offers limited editions of "Consider the Lilies" on its website. Each one is personally signed by Tom Holdman.
˜Come Unto Me" from the Rome Temple Visitors' Center
The church also commissioned Holdman Studios to create another Christ-centered window for the Rome temple plaza.
"Come Unto Me" is a 6,000 piece stained glass masterpiece in the Visitors' Center. A feast for the eyes and heart, this window highlights the life and ministry of Jesus; it also contains a few "Easter eggs" for the careful observer. Holdman once again fills the glass canvas with visual layers of spiritual impact to explain the story of the four Gospels.
The art piece illuminates Christ's birth, baptism, his atonement in the garden and on the cross as well as his parables and miracles. Without spoiling all of the surprises notable realia include a seashell from the Sea of Galilee, coins from the time of Christ, salt from the Dead Sea, and more. A special highlight is an actual stone from near the walls of the Jerusalem temple to suggest "let him who is without sin cast the first stone".
The BYU Department of Geology donated 12 precious stones that were placed into the window, each representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel.
So much information, thought and careful planning went into the creation of this window that an entire book was written about it.
While you may not see the art glass in person, you can read the full story in "Come Unto Me: Illuminating the Savior's Life, Mission, Parables, and Miracles," written by Tom's wife, Gayle Holdman, with Brad Wilcox, Tyler Griffiths, and Anthony Sweat. See the images, read the stories, and learn how this awe-inspiring stained glass art came to life. (And get a detailed map showing the location of every single Easter egg included!)
Bring inspirational art to your home
Since 1991, Tom Holdman and Holdman Studios have been commissioned for glass art projects the world over, including commercial buildings, residences, religious installations and public art.
As stained glass masters, Holdman Studios creates art that inspires and touches your soul like no other art form. To find the book and full selection of prints and stained glass pieces available, including their newest inspirational line, "Windows of Heaven," please visit holdmanstudios.com.
Tom Holdman and his long-standing art team find great joy in the striking medium of glass. They invite you to find joy in it with them as well.