It began in the early Middle Ages and peaked in the Renaissance. Whoever “drew” this won.
Granted, not everyone was happy about this business. Iconoclasts started busting up the place around the eighth century in the East, and the Reformation era saw its share of image-shredding purists.
But the Incarnation will out.
A couple of Reformation images:
And then there’s Rembrandt’s naturalistic portrayal:
Before I forget — Caravaggio:
So as not to ignore the moderns completely, I must say that among my favorites are Dali’s:
While there remains a minority report forbidding the depiction of Jesus as a violation of the First Commandment, I leave you with Luther on the matter:
And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden. Heigh now! you breakers of images, I defy you to prove the opposite!
In proof of this I cite the first commandment (Exod. 20[:3]): “You shall have no other gods before me.” Immediately, following this text, the meaning of having other gods is made plain in the words: “You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness …” [Exod. 20:4]. This is said of the same gods, etc. And although these spirits cling to the little word “make” and stubbornly insist, “Make, make is something else than to worship,” yet they must admit that this commandment basically speaks of nothing else than of the glory of God. It must certainly be “made” if it is to be worshiped, and unmade if it is not to be worshiped. It is not valid, however, to pick out one word and keep repeating it. One must consider the meaning of the whole text in its context. Then one sees that it speaks of images of God which are not to be worshiped. No one will be able to prove anything else. From subsequent words in the same chapter [Exod. 20:23], “You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold,” it follows that “make” certainly refers to such gods.
For this saying, “You shall have no other gods,” is the central thought, the standard, and the end in accordance with which all the words which follow are to be interpreted, connected, and judged. For this passage points out and expresses the meaning of this commandment, namely, that there are to be no other gods. Therefore the words “make,” “images,” “serve,” etc., and whatever else follows, are to be understood in no other sense than that neither gods nor idolatry are to develop therefrom. Even as the words, “I am your God” [Exod. 20:2], are the standard and end for all that may be said about the worship and service of God. And it would be foolish if I sought to conclude from this something that had nothing to do with the divine or the service of God, such as building houses, plowing, etc. No conclusion can be drawn from the words, “You shall have no other gods,” other than that which refers to idolatry. Where however images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden, for the central saying, “You shall have no other gods,” remains intact.
[Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther’s works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 40, Page 85-86). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.]