Those who have seen the painting in person are calling it remarkable, saying it left them awestruck.
What appears to be a giclee print of "The Second Coming" by Harry Anderson was meticulously removed from inside the east front door of the Provo Tabernacle at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday. The print depicts Jesus Christ descending to earth at the Second Coming, arms outstretched and surrounded by hosts of angels.
The picture quickly became a sensation on Saturday afternoon when it was discovered that the art had been entirely burned, except for the exact outline of the figure of Jesus Christ himself. Photos show the painting initially escaped any damage in the fire that destroyed the Tabernacle. But somehow, the painting slowly charred on Saturday or through the night on Friday. The frame remained intact, but the giclee had been charred black, apparently from the heat of the residual fire, which crews were not able to fully extinguish until 3 p.m.
Officials entered the tower where the painting hung for the first time on Saturday and found the picture. Officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints then requested the painting be immediately removed for conservation and stabilization. The Daily Herald witnessed a firefighter, using gloved hands, carefully remove the art from the wall, wrap it in plastic, and remove it from the building to a waiting truck.
Just before the painting was put on the truck, members of the public began to realize what the art was, and began taking photos. Firefighters unwrapped the plastic to take photos of themselves with the painting, and even invited Provo Councilwoman Cynthia Dayton to take a photo with the now-historic painting. When news media ran to take photos, firefighters immediately wrapped the painting in plastic again, and put it inside the back of Provo city truck.
In a press conference minutes later, Mayor John Curtis confirmed that the painting has been turned over to the LDS Church at the church's request and was taken to Salt Lake for emergency conservation and stabilization.
"That painting, a remarkable painting, was recovered a little over 30 minutes ago," the mayor told the media. "They now have it enroute to Salt Lake to their preservation place."
The city declined to release any photos of the painting, and asked Dayton to keep her photos under wraps as well. Curtis said the city wanted to work with the church and was hoping to highlight photos of the scorched painting at a community ceremony to be held Sunday evening.
Dayton sat down with the Daily Herald for an exclusive interview about the painting.
"They were in the middle of transporting it to move it to Salt Lake," she said. "The fire department was doing that. I was doing a walk-around to assess what was happening (with the building) and they (firefighters who recognized her) asked me if I'd like to have my picture taken with it. I said absolutely.
"I can tell you, and I think it would be appropriate to do so, that it was remarkable. It is all blacked out except where Christ is. (Scorch marks) come to a pinnacle point just about his head, and everything else is completely black. His arms are out, and his arms are mostly visible.
"It was a remarkable experience to be there at that moment when they were removing it and transporting it, and to be standing there with the firefighters who had risked their lives."
Dayton then became emotional, and put her hand to her chest in a long pause.
"I was so awestruck (by the painting) that I don't have words for it. I'm so grateful for the men and women who are willing to do that (fight fires) for us, and I think it is perfectly fitting that they should be standing around that painting. What a better way to celebrate Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Christ, than to have that at the center."