Alinari/Art Resource, NY

Poetess or lord? The long curly hair, swelling breasts and soft face of this statue led museum cataloguers first to identify the figure as a seated poetess. Only later, by comparing the statue with images on Christian sarcophagi, did they realize it depicted Jesus.

Although the Bible doesn’t indicate how Jesus looked, several texts of the Christian Apocrypha describe him as a beautiful, beardless youth; other early extra-biblical texts describe him as both male and female. The second-century Apocryphon of John (2:9–14) renders the Trinity as “I am the Father; I am the Mother; I am the Son.”