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November 24, 2020 at 6:09 pm #11776Alma TurnboleGuest
Angels in Art
by Nancy Grubb
- ISBN: 9780896600621 (0896600629)
- Release date: October 5, 1995
- Publisher: Abbeville Press
- Language: english
- Genres: art
- Format: hardcover, 143 pages
- Author: Nancy Grubb
About The Book
The most lavish and most inclusive book of angelic art ever published.
Offering a fresh look at an ancient subject, Angels in Art captures a myraid of angels in a multitude of guises, as portrayed by artists ranging from Giotto, Fra Angelico, and Botticelli to Bernini, Rembrandt, Rossetti, and Keith Haring. From early in the first millennium to contemporary times, these celestial beings have been represented in frescoes, oil paintings, mosaics, prints, stained glass, tapestries, manuscript illuminations, and sculpture. This capitvating book, which is divided into seven chapters — Angel Portraits, Heavenly Messengers, Host of Angels, Cherubs, Patterns of Flight, Battles of Good and Evil (which includes the fallen angels), and Guardian Angels and Companions — surveys every aspect of artist’s long-time fascination with this irresistible subject.
Over the centuries angel imagery has evolved from the ethereal to the fleshy, paralleling Western culture’s progression from faith in the unseen to a greater reliance on scientific observation. But even now, in the late 20th century, so many people still express faith in angels and so many artists continue to depict them that the angel seems to be an eternal element in art.
Other Details: 171 full-color illustrations 144 pages 9 x 9″ Published 1995
especially apt occasions for painting angels, such as the Sacrifice of Isaac, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Resurrection of Christ, the Assumption of the Virgin, and the Last Judgment. Angels also play a prominent role in Islamic scripture, and artists who belonged to the Shiite branch of Islam, which did not prohibit the representation of human form, depicted angels in scenes such as the Ascension of Mohammed on Buraq, His Mule, Guided by the Angel Gabriel (page 130).
Dante’s Divine Comedy (c. 1308-21) and, much later, John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) also conjured up elaborate visions of angels (and fallen angels) that became part of the vernacular and inspired generations of artists. By the time the Romantic poet Lord Byron wrote his satiric Vision of Judgment (1821), about the arrival of King George III in heaven, angels had become nearly a cliche:
“‘Twas the archangel Michael; all men know; The make of angels and archangels, since; There’s scarce a scribbler has not one to show,; From the fiends’ leader to the angels’ prince;; There also are some altar-pieces, though; I really can’t say that they much evince; One’s inner notions of immortal spirits;; But let the connoisseurs explain their merits.”
Conventions for portraying angels were slow to develop and, once established, were slow to change. Certain elements became codified, offering an easy way to identify the named angels in any given scene. For example, the archangel Gabriel carries a staff or a lily when making his annunciatory visit to the Virgin Mary but a trumpet when heralding the Last Judgment; Michael almost invariably brandishes a sword with which to battle the forces of evil.
Angel imagery has steadily progressed over the centuries from the ethereal to the fleshy, paralleling Western culture’s progression from faith in the unseen to reliance on direct observation and documentation. Even the early Florentine artist Giotto, who was such a pivotal figure in the transition from the medieval to the modern, still portrayed many of his angels as only quasiphysical, with their lower halves delineated more as disembodied suggestions of flight than as flesh and blood. (See the angel in the section on Joachim’s dream in the Arena Chapel, page 87.) As Renaissance artists became increasingly dedicated to depicting the natural world accurately, angels became more and more three-dimensional — no longer the flat, almost translucent creatures of medieval art. Compare, for example, Simone Martini’s fourteenth-century Annunciation (page 30) with the fifteenth-century one by Filippo Lippi (page 36), noting how the angels are situated in their surroundings.
Medieval angels were frequently placed flat against an unmodulated surface that was often painted gold to signify heavenly light. Starting in the Renaissance, angels were shown in more detailed and more convincingly familiar backgrounds, such as the Virgin Mary’s book-filled bedroom or a grassy, flower-bedecked paradise. By the Baroque period, angels had become not only recognizably human but even sensual, with their wings and bodies painted or sculpted in caressingly explicit detail.
After the eighteenth century, it seemed that the less wholeheartedly people believed in angels, the more believably they were portrayed. The trend toward this paradoxically realistic depiction of angels eventually became a source of contention between the nineteenth-century Realist Gustave Courbet and the proto-Impressionist Edouard Manet regarding the latter’s painting Christ with Angels (page 10). Courbet was known for his fierce advocacy of uncompromising realism in art. “Art in painting consists only of representations of objects visible and tangible to the artist,” he wrote. “An abstract object, not visible, not existing, is not within the realm of painting.” Given this unyielding stance, it is not surprising that Courbet greeted Manet’s painting of Christ and the angels with scorn, despite the fact that its unromanticized corpse and unidealized angels had scandalized contemporary critics.
As their colleague Pierre-Auguste Renoir recounted, Courbet mockingly asked Manet, “So you have seen angels then and know that they have backsides?” Edgar Degas later added: “Courbet said that never having seen angels, he did not know whether they had backsides and that, given their size, the wings Manet gave them could not have carried them. But I don’t give a d — — about any of this.”
By the time such irreverent comments could be made, the potential for sincere renditions of angels in the traditional mode had nearly vanished. What prevailed instead were winged figures — no longer really angels — that stood for something other than purely heavenly beings in allegories such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Victoria (below) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Charity (page 25).
Yet even in the late twentieth century, people continue to express faith in angels, and artists continue to portray them, as shown by Keith Haring’s hovering cartoonlike being (page 26), Dorothea Tanning’s surreal angelic landscape (page 142), and Komar and Melamid’s radiant archangel for a church in New Jersey (page 43). These and other contemporary images communicate a sense of continuity with tradition and a spirit of aesthetic conviction that suggest that the angel may remain an eternal element in art.
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