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Title: Angels in Art
Author: Waters, Clara Erskine Clement
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Angels in Art" ***

              [Illustration: _Murillo.--Guardian Angel._]

                             ANGELS IN ART

                              Art Series


                          THE MADONNA IN ART
                           ESTELLE M. HURLL.

                           CHILD LIFE IN ART
                           ESTELLE M. HURLL.

                             ANGELS IN ART
                        CLARA ERSKINE CLEMENT.

                              LOVE IN ART
                          MARY KNIGHT POTTER.


                        L. C. PAGE AND COMPANY


                   196 Summer Street, Boston, Mass.

                             ANGELS IN ART

                         CLARA ERSKINE CLEMENT

                               AUTHOR OF
                    “A HANDBOOK OF LEGENDARY ART,”



                              DAVID NUTT

                            Colonial Press:
            Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
                           Boston, U. S. A.


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

   I. INTRODUCTORY                                                    11

  II. ARCHANGELS--MICHAEL                                             46

 III. THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL                                           84

  IV. THE ARCHANGEL RAPHAEL                                          105

         AND EVIL SPIRITS                                            135



VIII. ANGELS IN PICTURES OF THE VIRGIN MARY                          223

      INDEX                                                          263



MURILLO.--Guardian Angel                                   _Frontispiece_

PERUGINO.--A Six-winged Cherub (from the Assumption
of the Virgin)                                                        21

FRA ANGELICO.--A Glory of Angels                                      29

FRA ANGELICO.--An Angel of the Tabernacle                             37

FRANCESCO ALBANI.--The Child Jesus with Angels                        43

RAPHAEL.--The Archangel Michael casting Satan out
of Heaven                                                             53

GUIDO RENI.--The Archangel Michael overpowering
Satan                                                                 63

H. MÜCKE.--The Translation of St. Catherine of
Alexandria                                                            71

FRA FILIPPO LIPPI.--The Annunciation of the Death
of the Virgin Mary                                                    79

FRA FILIPPO LIPPI.--A Divided Annunciation                            89

ALESSANDRO ALLORI.--The Annunciation                                  95

FRA ANGELICO.--The Annunciation                                      101

ANDREA DEL SARTO.--The Archangel Raphael conducting
the young Tobias                                                     111

GIOVANNI BILIVERTI.--The Archangel Raphael refusing
the Gifts of Tobias                                                  117

SANDRO BOTTICELLI.--The Archangel Raphael (from
a picture of Tobias and the three Archangels)                        123

FRA ANGELICO.--Angel Choristers                                      137

KAULBACH.--The Angel of Peace                                        141

PERUGINO.--Musical Angels                                            147

FRANCESCO GRANACCI.--Angels in Adoration                             153

IL SODOMA.--The Sacrifice of Abraham                                 161

MELOZZO DA FORLI.--An Angel                                          173

ARY SCHEFFER.--The Temptation of Christ                              181

SIR EDWARD BURNE-JONES.--Mary Magdalene at the
Sepulchre                                                            187

FRA ANGELICO.--An Angel conducting a Soul to
Heaven                                                               195

FRA BARTOLOMMEO.--An Angel playing the Violin                        201

LORENZO DI CREDI.--An Angel in Adoration                             205

FRENCH.--Death staying the Hand of the Sculptor                      211

ROSSETTI.--The Annunciation                                          221

FRANCESCO GRANACCI.--The Virgin and Angels                           225

FRANCESCO FRANCIA.--A Pietà                                          233

MURILLO.--The Immaculate Conception                                  237

SANDRO BOTTICELLI.--Madonna and Angels                               243

VAN DYCK.--The Repose in Egypt                                       251

TITIAN.--The Assumption of the Virgin                                255




Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and all the glorious hosts
of heaven were a fruitful source of inspiration to the oldest painters
and sculptors whose works are known to us, while the artists of our more
practical, less dreamful age are, from time to time, inspired to
reproduce their conceptions of the guardian angels of our race.

The Almighty declared to Job that the creation of the world was welcomed
with shouts of joy by “all the sons of God,” and the story of the words
and works of the angels written in the Scriptures--from the placing of
the cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, to the worship of the
angel by John, in the last chapter of Revelation--presents them to us as
heavenly guides, consolers, protectors, and reprovers of human beings.

What study is more charming and restful than that of the angels as set
forth in Holy Writ and the writings of the early Church? or more
interesting to observe than the manner in which the artists of various
nations and periods have expressed their ideas concerning these
celestial messengers of God? What more fascinating, more stimulating to
the imagination and further removed from the exhausting tension of our
day and generation?

The Old Testament represents the angels as an innumerable host,
discerning good and evil by reason of superior intelligence, and
without passion doing the will of God. Having the power to slay, it is
only exercised by the command of the Almighty, and not until after the
Captivity do we read of evil angels who work wickedness among men. In
fact, after this time the Hebrews seem to have added much to their
angelic theory and faith which harmonizes with the religion of the
Chaldeans, and with the teaching of Zoroaster.

The angels of the New Testament, while exempt from need and suffering,
have sympathy with human sorrow, rejoice over repentance of sin, attend
on prayerful souls, and conduct the spirits of the just to heaven when
the earthly life is ended.

One may doubt, however, if from the Scriptural teaching concerning
angels would emanate the universal interest in their representation, and
the personal sympathy with it, which is commonly shared by all sorts
and conditions of men, did they not cherish a belief--consciously or
otherwise--that beings superior to themselves exist, and employ their
superhuman powers for the blessing of our race, and for the welfare of
individuals. Evidently Spenser felt this when he wrote:

    “How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
     And come to succor us that succor want?
     How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
     The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
     Against foul fiends, to aid us militant?
     They for us fight, they watch, and duly ward,
     And their bright squadrons round about us plant,
     And all for love, and nothing for reward!
     Oh, why should heavenly God to men have such regard!”

As early as the fourth century the Christian Church had developed a
profound belief in the existence of both good and evil angels,--“the
foul fiends” and “bright squadrons” of Spenser’s lines,--the former
ever tempting human beings to sin, and the indulgence of their lower
natures; the latter inciting them to pursue good, forsaking evil and
pressing forward to the perfect Christian life. This faith is devoutly
maintained in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, in which we are
also taught that angelic aid may be invoked in our need, and that a
consciousness of the abiding presence of celestial beings should be a
supreme solace to human sorrow and suffering.

It remained for the theologians of the Middle Ages to exercise their
fruitful imaginations in originating a systematic classification of the
Orders of the Heavenly Host, and assigning to each rank its distinctive
office. The warrant for these discriminations may seem insufficient to
sceptical minds, but as their results are especially manifest in the
works of the old masters, some knowledge of them is necessary to the
student of Art; without it a large proportion of the famous religious
pictures of the world are utterly void of meaning.

Speaking broadly, this classification was based on that of St. Paul,
when he speaks of “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,”
and of “thrones and dominions;” on the account by Jude of the fall of
the “angels which kept not their first estate;” on the triumphs of the
Archangel Michael, and a few other texts of Scripture. Upon these
premises the angelic host was divided into three hierarchies, and these
again into nine choirs.

The first hierarchy embraces seraphim, cherubim, and thrones, the first
mention being sometimes given to the cherubim. Dionysius the
Areopagite--to whom St. Paul confided all that he had seen, when
transported to the seventh heaven--accords the first rank to the
seraphim, while the familiar hymn of St. Ambrose has accustomed us to
saying, “To Thee, cherubim and seraphim continually do cry.” Dante gives
preference to Dionysius as an authority, and says of him:

                  “For he had learn’d
    Both this and much beside of these our orbs
    From an eye-witness to Heaven’s mysteries.”

The second hierarchy includes the dominations, virtues, and powers; the
third, princedoms, archangels, and angels. The first hierarchy receives
its glory directly from the Almighty, and transmits it to the second,
which, in turn, illuminates the third, which is especially dedicated to
the care and service of the human race.

From the third hierarchy come the ministers and messengers of God; the
second is composed of governors, and the first of councillors. The
choristers of heaven are also angels, and the making of music is an
important angelic duty.

The seraphim immediately surround the throne of God, and are ever lost
in adoration and love, which is expressed in their very name, seraph
coming from a Hebrew root, meaning love. The cherubim also worship the
Creator, and are assigned to some special duties; they are superior in
knowledge, and the word cherub, also from the Hebrew, signifies to know.
Thrones sustain the seat of the Almighty.

The second hierarchy governs the elements and the stars. Princedoms
protect earthly monarchies, while archangels and angels are the agents
of God in his dealings with humanity. The title of angel, signifying a
messenger, may be, and is, given to a man bearing important tidings.
Thus the Evangelists are represented with wings, and John the Baptist
is, in this sense, an angel. The Greeks sometimes represent Christ with
wings, and call him “The Great Angel of the Will of God.”

Very early in the history of Art a system of religious symbolism
existed, a knowledge of which greatly enhances the pleasure derived from
representations of sacred subjects. In no case was this symbolism more
carefully observed than in the representations of angels. The aureole or
nimbus is never omitted from the head of an angel, and is always,
wherever used, the symbol of sanctity.

Wings are the distinctive angelic symbol, and are emblematic of spirit,
power, and swiftness. Seraphim and cherubim are usually represented by
heads with one, two, or three pairs of wings, which symbolize pure
spirit, informed by love and intelligence; the head is an emblem of the
soul, the love, the knowledge, while the wings have their usual

This manner of representing the two highest orders of angels is very
ancient, and in the earliest instances in existence the faces are human,
thoughtful, and mature. Gradually they became child-like, and were
intended to express innocence, and later they degenerated into absurd
little baby heads, with little wings folded under the chin. These in no
sense convey the original, spiritual significance of the seraphic and
cherubic head.

The first Scriptural mention of cherubim with wings occurs after the
departure of the Israelites from Egypt, Exodus xxv., 20: “And the
cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy
seat.” Isaiah gives warrant for six wings, as frequently represented in
Art, and so vividly described by Milton:

    “A seraph winged; six wings he wore to shade
     His lineaments divine; the pair that clad
     Each shoulder broad, came mantling o’er his breast


    With regal ornament; the middle pair
    Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
    Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
    And colors dipp’d in heaven; the third, his feet
    Shadow’d from either heel with feather’d mail,
    Sky-tinctured grain.”

In Ezekiel we read that “their wings were stretched upward when they
flew; when they stood they let down their wings.” There is, no doubt,
Scriptural authority for representing angels’ wings in the most
realistic manner, since Daniel says “they had wings like a fowl.” Is it
not more desirable, however, to see angel-wings rather than bird-wings?
The more devout and imaginative artists succeeded in overcoming the
commonplace in this regard by various devices. For example, Orcagna, in
the Campo Santo at Pisa, makes the bodies of his angels to end in
delicate wings instead of legs; in some old pictures the wings fade into
a cloudy vapor, or burst into flames. In one of Raphael’s frescoes in
the Vatican, we see fiery cherubs, their hair, wings, and limbs ending
in glowing flames, while their faces are full of spirit and
intelligence. Certainly, if anywhere purely impressionist painting is
acceptable and fitting, it is in the portrayal of heavenly wings.

Mrs. Jameson, in writing of this subject, says, “Infinitely more
beautiful and consistent are the nondescript wings which the early
painters gave their angels: large,--so large that, when the glorious
creature is represented as at rest, they droop from the shoulders to the
ground; with long, slender feathers, eyed sometimes like the peacock’s
train, bedropped with gold like the pheasant’s breast, tinted with azure
and violet and crimson, ‘Colors dipp’d in Heaven,’--they are really
angel-wings, not bird-wings.”

It is interesting to note that wings were used by the artists of
ancient Egypt, Babylon, Nineveh, and Etruria as symbols of might,
majesty, and divine beauty.

The representation of great numbers of angels, surrounding the Deity,
the Trinity, or the glorified Virgin, is known as a Glory of Angels, and
is most expressive and poetical when æsthetically portrayed. A Glory,
when properly represented, is composed of the hierarchies of angels in
circles, each hierarchy in its proper order. Complete Glories, with nine
circles, are exceedingly rare. Many artists contented themselves with
two or three, and sometimes but a single circle, thus symbolizing the
symbol of the Glory.

The nine choirs of angels are represented in various ways when not in a
Glory, and are frequently seen in ancient frescoes, mosaics, and
sculptures. Sometimes each choir has three figures, thus symbolizing the
Trinity; again, two figures stand for each choir, and occasionally nine
figures personate the three hierarchies; in the last representation
careful attention was given to colors as well as to symbols.

The Princedoms and Powers of Heaven are represented by rows and groups
of angels, all wearing the same dress and the same tiara, and bearing
the orb of sovereignty and wands like sceptres.

One of the most important elements in the proper painting of seraphs and
cherubs was the use of color, while greater freedom was permitted in the
portrayal of other angelic orders. In a Glory, for example, the inner
circle should be glowing red, the symbol of love; the second, blue, the
emblem of light, which again symbolizes knowledge.

Angelic symbolism in its purity makes the “blue-eyed seraphim” and the
“smiling cherubim” equally incorrect, since the seraph should be
glowing with divine love, and the face of the cherub should be
expressive of serious meditation,--as Milton says, “the Cherub
Contemplation.” The familiar cherubim beneath Raphael’s famous Madonna
di San Sisto, in the Dresden Gallery, are exquisite illustrations of
this thoughtfulness.

The colors of the oldest pictures, of the illuminated manuscripts, the
stained glass, and the painted sculptures were most carefully
considered. Gradually, however, the color law was less faithfully
observed, until, at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the
sixteenth centuries, it was not unusual to see the wings of cherubim in
various colors, while cherub heads were represented as floating in
clouds with no apparent wings.

Two pictures of world-wide fame illustrate this change,--Raphael’s
Madonna, mentioned above, and Perugino’s Coronation of the Virgin. In
the first, the entire background is composed of seraphs and cherubs
apparently evolved from thin blue air, and in constant danger of
disappearing in the golden-tinted background. In the second, the
multi-colored wings of the floating cherubim are beautiful and the
harmony of tones is exquisite, but they represent an innovation to which
one must become more and more accustomed as artists are less reverent in
their work.

The five angelic choirs which follow the seraphim and cherubim are not
familiar to us in works of art, although they were painted with great
accuracy in the words of the mediæval theologians.

When archangels are represented merely as belonging to their order, and
not in their distinctive offices, they are in complete armor, and bear
swords with the points upwards, and sometimes a trumpet also.


Angels are robed, and are represented in accordance with the work in
which they are engaged. Strictly speaking, the wand is the angelic
symbol, but must be frequently omitted, as when the hands are folded in
prayer, or musical instruments are in use, and in a variety of other

All angels are said to be masculine. They are represented as having
human forms and faces, young, beautiful, perfect, with an expression of
other-worldliness. They are created beings, therefore not eternal, but
they are never old, and should not be infantile. Such representations as
can be called infant angels should symbolize the souls of regenerate
men, or the spirits of such as die in infancy,--those of whom Jesus said
that “in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father.”

Angels are changeless; for them time does not exist; they enjoy
perpetual youth and uninterrupted bliss. To these qualities should be
added an impression of unusual power, wisdom, innocence, and spiritual

In the earliest pictures of angels the drapery was ample, and no unusual
attitudes, no insufficient robes, nor unsuitable expression was seen in
such representations so long as religious art was at its best.

White should be the prevailing color of angelic drapery, but delicate
shades of blue, red, and green were frequently employed with wonderful
effect. The Venetians used an exquisite pale salmon color in the drapery
of their angels; but no dark or heavy colors are seen in the robes of
angels in the pictures of the old Italian masters. The early German
painters, however, affected angelic draperies of such vast expanse and
weighty coloring, embroidery, and jewels, that apparently their angels
must perforce descend to earth, and never hope to rise again without a
change of toilet.

I shall presently speak of angels in their offices of messengers,
guardians, choristers, and comforters. At present I am thinking of the
multitudes of angels which were introduced into early religious pictures
to indicate a “cloud of witnesses.” They lend an element of beauty and
of spiritual emotion to the scenes honored with their presence. Their
effectiveness has appealed to many Christian architects who have fully
profited by the example of Solomon, who “carved all the walls of the
house--temple--with carved figures of cherubim,” and he made the doors
of olive-tree, and he carved on them figures of cherubim.

In the same manner, in many old churches, angels carved in marble,
stone or wood, and painted on glass, in frescoes on walls, and in
smaller pictures, fill all spaces, and are everywhere beautiful. So
long, however, as the stricter theological observances prevailed, angels
were not permitted as mere decorations, but were so placed as to
illustrate some solemn and significant portion of the belief and
teaching of the Church.

Angels were only second to the persons of the Trinity at this period,
and preceded the Evangelists. They were represented as surrounding
divine beings, and the Virgin Enthroned, or in Glory.

What was known as a Liturgy of Angels was most effective and beautiful.
It consisted of a procession of angels on each side of the choir,
apparently approaching the altar, all wearing the stole and alba of a
deacon, and bearing the implements of the mass. The statues of kneeling
angels, not infrequently placed on each side the altar, holding tapers,
or the emblems of the Passion of Christ, were not mere decorations, but
symbolized the angelic presence wherever Christ is worshipped. In short,
either processions or single figures of angels, in any part of a church,
and apparently approaching the altar, are symbols of the glorious hosts
of heaven who evermore praise God.

During the first three centuries of Christianity the representation of
angels was not permissible, and it is interesting to observe the crude
and curious manner in which they were pictured in the illuminated
manuscripts and the mosaics of the fifth century. Indeed, until the
tenth century the angels in Art were curiously formed, and more
curiously draped.

Giotto first approached the ideal representation of angels, and,
naturally, his pupils excelled him in their conception of what these
celestial beings should be. It was, however, Angelico who first--and
shall we not say last?--succeeded in portraying absolutely unearthly
angels,--angels who must have appeared to him in his holy dreams, and
impressed themselves on his pure spirit in such a wise that with mere
paints and brushes he could picture a superhuman purity.

Not an angel of Angelico’s resembles any man, while in the angels of
other masters, beautiful, seraphic, and charming as they may be, we
often fancy that we see a beautiful boy, or a happy child, who might
have served the artist as an angel-making model.

Wonderfully celestial as Angelico’s angels seem to be, they are
feminine, almost without exception. In his time this criticism was held
to be a serious one; but since angels are sexless,--according to the
religious teaching on which this


spiritually-minded monk relied,--I fail to see ground for disapprobation
of his work.

The angels of Giotto and Benozzo Gozzoli, with all their beauty, are
also feminine, while the great Michael Angelo, whose angels have not yet
attained to wings, failed to represent such celestial beings as one
would choose as personal attendants.

Leonardo’s angels almost grin; Correggio reproduced the lovely children
who did duty as his angels; almost the same may be said of Titian; while
in the pictures by Francesco Albani, Guido Reni, and the Caracci, the
angels are simply attractive and even elegant boys, as may be seen in
our illustration of the child Jesus with angels, by Albani. It is so
difficult to distinguish the angels of some artists from their cupids,
that one can only decide between them by learning the titles of their
pictures. These are characteristics of the works of these masters as a
whole, with rare exceptions, rather than of single pictures.

To whom, then, may one look for satisfactory angels? For myself, I
answer, to Raphael, and especially to his later works. His angels are
sexless, spiritual, graceful, and, at the same time, the personification
of intelligence and power, as may be seen in our illustration of the
Archangel Michael. Witness also the three angels in the Expulsion of
Heliodorus from the Temple, in the Stanza della Signatura, in the
Vatican. They are without wings, and none are needed to emphasize their
godlike wrath against the thief who robbed the widow and orphan in the
very temple of the Most High. The celestial warrior on his celestial
steed,--believed to be St. Michael, in his office of Protector of the
Hebrews,--the deadly mace drawn back ready to strike the fallen robber,
and his two rapidly gliding attendants, with streaming hair and swift,
spirit-like movement, are such conceptions and personifications of
superhuman power as can scarcely be paralleled in any other work of Art.

Rembrandt, too, painted wonderful angels. No adjective ordinarily
applied to such pictures is suited to these. They are poetical,
unearthly apparitions, and once studied, can no more be forgotten than
can some of Dante’s and Shakepeare’s immortal lines.

Modern artists have, speaking generally, wisely followed the examples of
old masters in their treatment of angels. The poet Blake, however, is a
notable exception to this rule. He painted angels that surely “sing to
heaven,” while they float upon the air which their diaphanous drapery
scarcely displaces, and seem about to vanish and become a portion of
the ether which surrounds them.

I cannot better close this chapter than by quoting what Mr. Ruskin
writes of the earlier and later representations of angels.

He says of the earlier pictures that there is “a certain confidence in
the way in which angels trust to their wings, very characteristic of a
period of bold and simple conception. Modern science has taught us that
a wing cannot be anatomically joined to a shoulder; and, in proportion
as painters approach more and more to the scientific, as distinguished
from the contemplative state of mind, they put the wings of their angels
on more timidly, and dwell with greater emphasis on the human form, with
less upon the wings, until these last become a species of decorative
appendage,--a mere _sign_ of an angel.

“But in Giotto’s time an angel was a


complete creature, as much believed in as a bird, and the way in which
it would, or might, cast itself into the air, and lean hither and
thither on its plumes, was as naturally apprehended as the manner of
flight of a chough or a starling.

“Hence, Dante’s simple and most exquisite synonym for angel, ‘Bird of
God;’ and hence, also, a variety and picturesqueness in the expression
of the movements of the heavenly hierarchies by the earlier painters,
ill-replaced by the powers of foreshortening and throwing naked limbs
into fantastic positions, which appear in the cherubic groups of later




The archangels alone have names, and being known to us by them, as well
as in connection with certain important events in heaven and on earth,
we involuntarily think of them with a more intimate and, at the same
time, a more reverent and sympathetic feeling than we can possibly have
for the numberless nameless angels of the heavenly choir.

In works of Art, these last are always beautiful, always smiling, and
ever ready to appear in greater or lesser numbers whenever any notable
religious event is taking place, thus apparently justifying those who
believe that we are always surrounded by these celestial beings. They
are a most decorative audience of witnesses, and when they are playing
upon their musical instruments, or with open lips and upturned,
rapturous eyes are singing praises to God, they contribute an enchanting
element to the representation.

But the story of the archangels and their wonderful deeds, as told in
Scripture and in the sacred legends, impresses us with a vivid sense of
their marvellous power and wisdom, as well as of their tender sympathy
for the human beings whom they protected and served in their office of
guardians and defenders. The official duties that have been assigned
them by the theologians have the effect of giving them a place, so to
speak, in which we may think of them; and this serves to make them more
positively existent to our minds than other angels are. In comparison
with such a personality as we must involuntarily give to St. Michael,
the hovering, musical angels are so intangible, such veritable airy
visions, that they elude all practical thought of them, and appear to be
evolved upon occasion from the air into which they vanish.

Michael (like unto God) is the captain-general and leader of the
heavenly host; the protector of the Hebrew nation, and the conqueror of
the hosts of hell; the lord and guardian of souls, and the patron saint
and prince of the Church militant. His attributes are the sceptre, the
sword, and the scales.

Gabriel (God is my strength) is the guardian of the celestial treasury;
a bearer of important messages; the angel of the Annunciation, and the
preceptor of the Patriarch Joseph. His symbol is the lily.

Raphael (the medicine of God) is the chief of guardian angels, and was
the conductor of the young Tobias. He bears the staff and gourd of a

Uriel (the light of God) is regent of the sun, and was the teacher of
Esdras. His symbols are a roll and book.

Chamuel (one who sees God) is believed by some to be the angel who
wrestled with Jacob, and who appeared to Christ during the agony in the
garden. Others believe the latter to have been Gabriel. Chamuel bears a
cup and staff.

Jophiel (the beauty of God) is the guardian of the Tree of Knowledge,
who drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; the protector of seekers
for truth; the preceptor of the sons of Noah; the enemy of those who
pursue vain knowledge. His attribute is a flaming sword.

Zadkiel (the righteousness of God) is sometimes said to have stayed the
hand of Abraham from the sacrifice of Isaac, while others believe this
to have been the work of Michael. The sacrificial knife is the symbol of

When the archangels are represented merely as such, without reference to
their distinctive offices, they are in complete armor, holding swords
with the points upwards, and sometimes bearing trumpets also. They are
of a twofold nature, since they are powers, as are the princedoms, and
fulfil the duties of messengers and ministers, as do the angels.

Although each of the seven archangels has been many times represented in
works of Art, I know of no example in which they are seen together, and
can be distinguished by name. There are occasional instances of the
representation of seven angels, blowing trumpets, which are intended to
illustrate the text in Revelation, “And I saw the seven angels which
stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.”

In pictures of the crucifixion, and of the Virgin with the body of her
dead son,--known as the Pietà,--the instruments of the Passion are
frequently borne by seven angels, and the same number appear in pictures
of the last judgment. But as neither the Eastern or Western Church
acknowledged the seven archangels, it is probable that these pictures
represent the angels of Revelation.

A most interesting example of artistic symbolism is seen in a picture
painted in 1352 by Taddeo Gaddi, and now in the Church of Santa Maria
Novella, in Florence. Here seven angels attend on St. Thomas Aquinas,
and bear the symbols of the distinguished virtues of this reverend and
learned saint. The symbols are a church--Religion; a crown and
sceptre--Power; a book--Knowledge; a cross and shield--Faith; an olive
branch--Peace; flames of fire--Piety and Charity; and a lily--Purity.

The Hebrews believed that Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel sustain
the throne of God. The first three are reverenced as saints in the
Catholic Church; and their divine achievements and celestial beauty have
been a fruitful inspiration to painters and sculptors, resulting in the
creation of many immortal works of art.

The Archangel Michael is reverenced as the first and mightiest of all
created beings. He was worshipped by the Chaldeans, and the Gnostics
taught that he was the leader of the seven angels who created the
universe. After the Captivity the Hebrews regarded him as all that is
implied by the Prophet Daniel when he


says, “Michael, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy
people.” It is believed that he will be privileged to exalt the banner
of the Cross on the Judgment Day, and to command the trumpet of the
archangel to sound; it is on account of these offices that he is called
the “Bannerer of Heaven.”

As captain of the heavenly host, it devolved on Michael to conquer
Lucifer and his followers, and to expel them from heaven after their
refusal to worship the Son of Man; and terrible was the punishment he
inflicted on them. Chained in mid-air, where they must remain until the
Judgment Day, they behold all that happens on earth. Man, whom they
disdained, has flourished in their sight, and wields a power that they
may well envy, while the souls of the redeemed constantly ascend to the
heaven which is closed to them. Thus are they constantly tormented by
hate, and a desire for revenge, of which they must ever despair.

St. Michael is represented in art as young and severely beautiful. In
the earliest pictures his drapery is always white and his wings of many
colors, while his symbols, indicating that his conquests are made by
spiritual force alone, are a lance terminating in a cross, or a sceptre.
Later, it became the custom to represent him in a costume and with such
emblems as indicated the nature of the work in which he was engaged; and
except for the wings, his picture might often be mistaken for that of a
celestially radiant knight, since he is clothed in armor, and bears a
sword, shield, and lance. But his seraphic wings and his bearing mark
him as a mighty spiritual power; and this impression is increased rather
than lessened, when in all humility he is in the act of worship before
the Divine Infant, or stands in reverent attitude near the Madonna, as
if to guard her and her heaven-sent son.

When conquering Satan the treatment is varied, but the subject is easily
recognized. More frequently than otherwise, the archangel stands on the
demon, who is half human and half dragon, wearing a suit of mail, and is
about to pierce the evil spirit with a lance or bind him in chains.

Such pictures date from the earliest attempts in religious painting, and
the same subject was represented in ancient sculpture. Some of these
works are so crude as to be absurd, but for their manifest reverence and
sincerity. An early sculpture in the porch of the Cathedral of Cortona,
probably dating from the seventh century, presents the archangel in
long, heavy robes, reaching to his feet; he stands solidly on the back
of the dragon, and as if to make the footing more secure, the beast
curls his tail in air and lifts his head as high as possible, holding
his mouth wide open, into which St. Michael presses his lance without a
struggle. The whole effect is that of some calm and commonplace
occurrence, and is in striking contrast with the spirit of the conflict
which is represented, as well as with the superhuman combat depicted by
later artists.

The dragon is personified by a variety of horrible reptilian forms. Some
artists even attempted to follow the apocalyptic description. “For their
power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like
unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.”

Lucifer is not always alone, but is sometimes surrounded by demons, who
crouch with him at the feet of St. Michael, before whom a company of
angels kneel in adoration.

During the sixteenth century the pictures of this archangel took on the
military aspect, to which I have referred, and but for the wings would
have represented St. George, or a Crusader of the Cross, as suitably as
the great Warrior Angel.

An exquisite small picture of this type, now in the Academy at Florence,
was painted by Fra Angelico. The lance and shield and the lambent flame
above the brow are the only emblems; the latter symbolizing spiritual
fervor. The rainbow-tinted wings are raised and fully spread, meeting
above and behind the head; the armor is of a rich dark red and gold. The
pose and the expression of the countenance indicate the reserved power
and the godlike tranquillity of the celestial warrior, and fitly
represent him as the patron of the Church Militant.

The representations of St. Michael conquering Lucifer are so numerous
and so interesting technically, that any adequate account of them and
of their artistic and theological development would fill a volume, and
might be considered rather tiresome. I shall speak especially of two
examples which are very generally accepted as the most satisfactory of
them all.

The first, painted by Raphael when at his best, is in the Louvre. It was
a commission from Lorenzo dei Medici, who presented it to Francis I. The
subject was doubtless chosen by Raphael as a compliment to the
sovereign, who was the Grand Master of the Order of St. Michael, the
military patron saint of France.

It was painted on wood, and sent with three other pictures, packed on
mules, to Fontainebleau, where Lorenzo was visiting, in May, 1518. The
picture was somewhat injured on the journey. In 1773 it was transferred
to canvas, and “restored” three years later, but at the beginning of
this century the restorations were removed. We must believe that the
picture has suffered from these chances and changes, but the fact
remains that it is still a glorious work by a great master.

The beautiful young angel does not stand upon the fiend beneath him,
but, poised in air, he lightly touches with his foot the shoulder of the
demon in vulgar human form, fiery in color, having horns and a serpent’s
tail. The expression of the angel is serious, calm, majestic, as he
gazes down upon the writhing Satan, whose face, as he struggles to raise
it, is full of malignant hate. This detail is lost in the black and
white reproductions.

Michael grasps the lance with both hands, and so natural is the action,
so easy and graceful, that the beholder instinctively waits to see the
weapon do its work, while flames rise from the earth as if impatient to
engulf the disgusting demon. The head of the angel, with its light,
floating hair is against the background of the brilliant wings, in which
blue, gold, and purple are gloriously mingled; his armor is gold and
silver; a sword hangs by his side, and an azure scarf floats from his
shoulders. His legs are bare, and his feet shod with buskins, which
leave the toes uncovered. The contrast between the exquisite, angelic
flesh tints, rosy in hue, and the brown coloring of the demon,
effectively emphasizes the beauty of purity and the loathsomeness of

The St. Michael of Guido Reni so closely resembles that of Raphael in
general treatment, that it is more nearly just to compare these works
than is usually the case with pictures of the same subject by different
masters. The attitude of Guido’s saint is like that of a dancing-master
when contrasted with the pose of Raphael’s,


and his demon is simply low and base, devoid of malignity or any supreme

But the head and face of Guido’s Michael make his picture wonderful;
they adequately express divine purity and beauty, while the studied and
fictitious qualities of Guido’s art--here at their best--serve to
enhance the exquisite effect of this angelic warrior, and the picture is
justly esteemed as one of the treasures of the Cappucini at Rome.

Outside of Italian art, the St. Michael of Martin Schoen is well worth
notice. The figure is fully draped in a long, flowing robe and mantle;
the pose is most graceful, and the bearing of the angel dignified and
unruffled. The demon is made up of fins, a savage mouth, and numerous
claws with which to seize its victims; an entirely emblematic and most
repulsive figure.

There are occasional pictures of the “Fall of the Angels,” in which St.
Michael contends against the entire company of rebellious spirits. These
are illustrative of the text, “When Michael and his angels fought
against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and the great
dragon was cast out.”

The painting of such a picture at Arezzo, about 1400, caused the death
of Spinello d’Arezzo, whose mind so dwelt upon the demons he had painted
that he went mad, and fancied that Lucifer appeared to him, and cursed
him for having represented the fiend and his angels in so revolting a
manner. The horror of the artist induced a fever of which he died.

The smaller of the two pictures of this subject by Rubens, in Munich, is
esteemed a miracle of art. It displays the inventive power of the great
Flemish master in a wonderful _tour de force_, for the rebel angels are
not fallen, but falling, and tumbling headlong out of heaven, down,
down,--in such confusion and affright as only Rubens could portray.

In some cases Raphael and Gabriel are represented as witnesses of the
combat between Michael and Lucifer. To my taste, these figures, with
their abundant white draperies, detract from the simplicity and dignity
of this impressive scene. Not only these archangels, but apostles and
saints are sometimes introduced, in spite of the evident anachronism, as
observers of this great spiritual struggle, while hosts of angels are
above and around the picture.

In short, the representations of this subject, in one form and another,
are almost numberless, and can scarcely be too many, when they are
regarded as embodying the great truth of the spiritual triumph over

Mrs. Jameson says: “This is the secret of its perpetual repetition, and
this the secret of the untired complacency with which we regard it ...
and if to this primal moral significance be added all the charm of
poetry, grace, animated movement, which human genius has lavished on
this ever-blessed, ever-welcome symbol, then, as we look up at it, we
are ‘not only touched, but wakened and inspired,’ and the whole
delighted imagination glows with faith and hope, and grateful triumphant
sympathy,--so, at least, I have felt, and I must believe that others
have felt it, too.”

The representations of St. Michael as the Lord of Souls are less
numerous than those of the subjects just mentioned, but are very
interesting. In some votive pictures he appears as the protector of
those who have struggled with evil, and gained a victory. In such
pictures the angel has his foot upon the dragon, or holds a dragon’s
head in his hand, and bears the banner of victory.

Again, Michael is represented with his scales engaged in weighing the
souls of the dead; in such pictures he is unarmed, and bears a sceptre
ending in a cross. The souls are typified by little naked human figures;
the accepted spirits usually kneel in the scales, with hands clasped as
in prayer; the attitude of the rejected souls expresses horror and
agony, which is sometimes emphasized by the figure of a demon, impatient
for his prey, who reaches out his talons, or his devil’s fork, to seize
the doomed spirits.

Leonardo da Vinci represented the angel as presenting the balance to the
Infant Jesus, who has the air of blessing the pious soul in the upper
scale. Signorelli, about 1500, painted a picture of this subject, which
is in the church of San Gregorio at Rome, in which the archangel, in a
suit of mail, stands with his wings spread out, and the balance with
full scales held above a fierce, open-mouthed dragon. The lance of the
archangel has pierced through the under jaw of the beast and entered his
body, making an ugly wound, and a hideous little demon, resting on his
tiny black wings, is clutching the condemned spirits in the lower scale.

In pictures of the Assumption or Glorification of the Virgin, if St.
Michael is present, it is in his office of Lord of Souls, as the legends
of the Madonna teach that he received her spirit, and guarded it until
it was again united with her sinless form.

As Lord of Souls it is taught that St. Michael conducted the spirits of
the just to heaven, and even cared for their bodies in some instances.
The legend of St.


Catherine of Alexandria teaches that her body was borne by angels over
the desert and sea to the top of Mount Sinai, where it was buried; and
later a monastery was built over her sepulchre. In the picture of the
“Translation of St. Catherine,” which we give, St. Michael is one of the
four celestial bearers of the martyr saint.

In rare instances St. Michael was represented without wings. Such a
figure standing on a dragon is a St. George, unless the balance is
introduced. When the archangel stands upon the dragon with the balance
in his hand, he appears in his double office as Conqueror of Satan and
Lord of Souls. Memorial chapels and tombs were frequently decorated with
this subject, a notable instance being that on the tomb of Henry VII.,
in Westminster Abbey.

In pictures of the Last Judgment, St. Michael is sometimes seen in the
very act of weighing souls, and, although I have nowhere found this
explanation, it has seemed to me that the souls being thus weighed at
the last hour should symbolize those of whom St. Paul said, “We shall
not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and
the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Since the Archangel Michael was made the guardian of the Hebrew nation,
he was naturally an important actor in many scenes connected with their
history. It was he who succored Hagar in the wilderness (Genesis xxi.,
17), who appeared to restrain Abraham from the sacrifice of Isaac
(Genesis xxii., 11). He brought the plagues on Egypt and led the
Israelites on their journey. The Jews and early Christians believed
that God spake through the mouth of Michael in the Burning Bush, and by
him sent the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. When Satan would have entered
the body of Moses, in order to personate the prophet and deceive the
Jews, it was Michael who contended with the Evil One, and buried the
body in an unknown place, as is distinctly stated by Jude. Signorelli
chose this as the subject of one of his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel,
and I have seen no other representation of it, although I believe that a
few others exist.

It was Michael who put blessings instead of curses into Balaam’s mouth
(Numbers xxii., 35), who was with Joshua in the plain of Jericho (Joshua
v., 13), who appeared to Gideon (Judges vi., 2), and delivered the three
faithful Jews from the fiery furnace (Daniel iii., 25). This last
subject is one of the earliest in Christian art, and was a symbol of
the redemption of man by Jesus Christ. There are still other like
offices which St. Michael filled as the protector of the Jews, while
several important works are attributed to him in the Apochrypha and in
the Legends of the Church.

For example, in the apochryphal story of Bel and the Dragon, it is
related that when King Cyrus had thrown the prophet Daniel into the
lions’ den, and he had been six days without food, the angel of the Lord
appeared to the prophet Habakkuk in Jewry, when he had prepared a mess
of potage for the reapers in his field, and the angel commanded Habakkuk
to carry the potage to Babylon and give it to Daniel.

“Then Habakkuk said, ‘Lord, I never saw Babylon; neither do I know where
the den is.’ Then the angel of the Lord took Habakkuk by the hair of his
head, and set him in Babylon over the lions’ den; and Habakkuk cried,
saying, ‘O Daniel, Daniel, take the dinner which God hath sent
thee,’--and the angel again set Habakkuk in his own place.”

At one period this subject was represented on sarcophagi; but I have
only seen it in prints after the Flemish artist, Hemshirk.

In the legends of St. Michael we read that in the sixth century, when
the plague was raging in Rome, and processions threaded the streets
chanting the service since known as the Great Litanies, the Archangel
Michael appeared, hovering over the city. He alighted on the summit of
the Mausoleum of Hadrian and sheathed his sword, from which blood was
dripping. From that hour the plague was stayed, and from that day the
Mausoleum, which is surmounted by a statue of the Archangel, has been
called the Castle of Sant’ Angelo.

The legends also give an account of two appearances of St. Michael when
he commanded the erection of churches; one at Monte Galgano, on the east
coast of Italy, and the second at Avranches in Normandy. The first site
was found to cover a wonderful stream of water, which cured many
diseases, and made the church of Monte Galgano a much frequented place
of pilgrimage.

The church in Normandy is on the celebrated Mont Saint Michael, and is
famous in all Christian countries. From the time when the angel appeared
to St. Aubert, the bishop, and commanded him to build the church, this
saint was greatly venerated in France, and was made patron of France and
of the order which St. Louis instituted in his honor.

The first church erected here was small, but Richard of Normandy and
William the Conquerer raised a magnificent abbey, which overlooked the


picturesque scenery, and for this reason, if no other, remains a much
frequented spot.

The old English coin called an angel was so named from the
representation of St. Michael which was stamped upon it.

The pictures of St. Michael announcing to the Virgin Mary the time of
her death, bear so strong a resemblance to those of the Annunciation,
that it is necessary to remember that these have the symbols of a palm
on a lighted taper in the hand of the angel, instead of the lily of the
Archangel Gabriel, as is seen in our illustration of a beautiful picture
in the Florentine Academy.

The legend relates that on a certain day the heart of Mary was filled
with an inexpressible longing to see her Son, and she wept sorely, when
lo! an angel clothed in light appeared before her, saluting her, and
saying, “Hail, O Mary! blessed by Him who hath given salvation to
Israel! I bring thee here a branch of palm gathered in paradise; command
that it be carried before thy bier in the day of thy death; for in three
days thy soul shall leave thy body, and thou shalt enter into paradise
where thy Son awaits thy coming.” Mary answering, said: “If I have found
grace in thy sight tell me thy name, and grant that the Apostles may be
reunited to me, that in their presence I may give up my soul to God.
Also, I pray thee, that after death my soul may not be affrighted by any
spirit of darkness, nor any evil angel be given power over me.” And the
archangel replied: “My name is the Great and Wonderful. Doubt not that
the Apostles shall be with thee to-day, for he who transported the
prophet Habakkuk by the hair of his head to the lions’ den, can also
bring hither the Apostles. Fear thou not the evil spirit, for thou hast
bruised his head, and destroyed his kingdom.” And the angel departed,
and the palm branch shed light from every leaf and sparkled as the stars
of heaven.

And the duty of the archangel was thus fulfilled until he should again
appear as Lord of Souls to receive the spirit of the Virgin, to guard it
until it should again inhabit her sinless body.



The Archangel Gabriel is mentioned by name but twice in the Old
Testament. First in Daniel viii., 16, when he explained the vision which
the prophet had seen, and again in Daniel ix., 21, when Gabriel appeared
to Daniel to give him skill and understanding.

Likewise in the New Testament he is twice mentioned, in Luke i., 19 and
26, when he announced to Zacharias the birth of John the Baptist, and to
the Virgin Mary that she was favored of the Lord, and blessed among
women. On each of these occasions he filled the office of a messenger
or bearer of important tidings. It is believed to have been Gabriel who
fought with the Angel of the Kingdom of Persia for twenty-one days, when
Michael came to his relief, and Gabriel again visited Daniel to
strengthen him, and explain “that which is noted in the scripture of
truth,” and to announce that the king of Græcia should overcome the king
of Persia. After which Gabriel returned to his battle with the Angel of

The contest with the angel of Persia is a subject which offers unusual
opportunities in its artistic representation; it is, however, much the
same in spirit as the struggle between Michael and Lucifer, and the
preference was given to the latter by the painters of religious

St. Gabriel has been many times portrayed as the messenger announcing
the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus Christ. In the
apochryphal legends he also foretells the birth of Samson, and that of
the Virgin Mary. From these frequently repeated messages which foretold
important births, Gabriel naturally came to be regarded as the angel who
presides over childbirth.

The great number of representations of the Annunciation to the Virgin
Mary make it difficult to select those of which to speak. The earliest
pictures of this event portray it with great simplicity, purity, and
grace. A spiritual mystery is being depicted, and is handled with
sincere reverence and the utmost delicacy.

The scene is usually the portico of an ecclesiastical edifice. When
seated, the Virgin is on a species of throne, but she is more frequently
represented as standing. The archangel is at some distance from her, not
infrequently quite outside the porch. He is majestic and beautiful; is
clothed in white, wearing the tunic and pallium, or archbishop’s mantle.
His wings are large, and brilliant with many colors, and his abundant
hair is bound with a jewelled tiara. He bears either the sceptre of
power or a lily in one hand, while the other is extended in benediction.
Sometimes he holds a scroll inscribed with the words, “Ave Maria, gratia
plena,” Hail! Mary, full of grace, which words Dante represents Gabriel
as constantly repeating in paradise.

The angel is the chief figure in this scene in the earlier pictures; he
is joyfully triumphant, announcing the coming of the Saviour, while the
Virgin is all humility and submission; in some cases her head is
covered, an extreme expression of lowliness, and she is always
self-effacing in attitude and expression.

An early custom in churches was to place the picture of the Virgin on
one side of the altar, and that of the angel on the other side; or, if
both figures were in the same frame, a division was made by an
architectural pillar, or a conventional ornament between them. In many
cases the Virgin and the Archangel were placed separately above, or on
each side of some scene from the life of Jesus, usually an altar piece.
The picture by Fra Filippo Lippi, which we give, is a very fine example
of the so-called “divided Annunciations.” It is in the Florentine
Academy. This picture is very beautiful, and fittingly expresses the
humility and surprise of the Virgin and the reverence of the heavenly
messenger. It is also a good example of Fra Filippo’s style; his
draperies were graceful, abundant, and usually much ornamented with
designs in gold, of which we have here enough for elegance, while it is
not overdone as in other works of this artist.


A very ancient Annunciation, of peculiar and elaborate arrangement,
dating from the fifth century, is in mosaic, over the arch in front of
the choir in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome. The classical
treatment of the dresses, and of the entire composition, makes this work
so different from the usual conception of the subject as to be worthy of
observation. There are two scenes: in the first, the archangel is sent
on his mission, and is rapidly flying towards the earth, as if in haste
to utter his joyous salutation, “Hail! thou art highly favored! Blessed
art thou among women!”

The second scene presents Gabriel standing before the Virgin, who is
seated on a throne, behind which are two guardian angels. This
representation is so utterly unlike what is known as Christian art as to
make a lasting impression, by reason of its classical treatment; all
the details have an air of belonging to an earlier period than that
known as mediæval, and the figures might be those of ancient Greeks.

It is extremely curious and interesting to observe the various methods
of representing the Archangel Gabriel in pictures of the Annunciation.
At times he might be mistaken for the ambassador of a proud and powerful
earthly potentate. He is clothed in gorgeous raiment, with a rich train,
sometimes borne by one, and again by three page-like angels, while he
carries himself with majestic haughtiness.

We do not wonder that the difference between the estate of an archangel
sent by God, and the humility of the Virgin of Galilee, should have
misled some artists; or that with them the angel held the first place,
especially as it was only thus that any element of splendor could be
introduced into their pictures. Indeed, we have engravings after a
picture by Raphael, in which the Virgin is kneeling before the angel,
who raises the right hand in benediction.

But the gradual increase in the veneration accorded to the Virgin, and
the titles of Queen of Heaven, and Queen of Angels, which were bestowed
on her, soon changed the spirit of the representations of the
Annunciation; and while the Virgin loses none of her humility and
submission, the angel bows, and even kneels to her, thus emphasizing his
acknowledgment of her superior holiness,--since an archangel could only
kneel before spiritual perfection.

It was well that the patriarchs and prophets should acknowledge the
superiority of the angels sent to them,--but the glory of the Mother of
Christ should be represented as commanding the reverence of even the
highest of created being--only thus could the faith of the Church, for
which these religious pictures were painted, be fittingly illustrated.

Thus it became customary to omit the sceptre in the hand of the angel,
and to give him the lily alone, or the lily and the scroll. Indeed,
there are notable pictures in which Gabriel has no symbol, but with
hands clasped over his breast, and head inclined, he seems to worship
the Virgin while declaring his mission to her. There are, however, few
Annunciations in which the lily does not appear. It is the special
symbol of the purity of Mary, to whom is applied the verse from the Song
of Solomon: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” In
some pictures the lily is seen in a vase near the Virgin.

Occasionally the symbol of peace is introduced in pictures of the
Annunciation by placing a crown of olive on the head


of the archangel, or an olive branch in his hand. Here Gabriel is
presented as announcing the “Peace on earth and good will towards men,”
which Raphael and his attendant angels chanted to the shepherds on the
birth of Jesus.

The early German painters were fond of picturing Gabriel in priestly
robes, heavily embroidered, and rich in color. This dress supplied the
same gorgeous effect as was given by the princely trains of which I have
spoken. In these pictures Gabriel usually kneels,--his ample robes
falling on the pavement around him,--thus avoiding the proud bearing of
the regally vestured messenger.

The simplicity of the scene, when Gabriel is appropriately draped in the
filmy white robe,--which is the usual conception of an angel’s
dress,--is far more satisfactory and harmonious with the spirit of the
miraculous Annunciation than any splendid vestments can possibly be.

The earliest pictures of the Annunciation, however, in spite of
unsuitable costumes, and of certain technical imperfections, are more
acceptable to the reverent mind than are those of a later time, in which
the angel is scantily draped and is apparently conscious of his physical
beauty, while the Virgin is entirely wanting in grace or dignity. Such a
rendering of this scene is most offensive; all the more so that these
pictures are frequently well executed, and were they not presented as
representations of this sacred subject, but given some appropriate
title, they would have claims to a certain artistic approbation.

Other artists, like Allori, in our illustration, represent an all too
conscious Virgin, an angel who apparently poses for a picture, and a
mass of utterly inappropriate detail. This Annunciation, which is in
the Florentine Academy, affords an excellent example of this
objectionable style, and its faults are emphasized when it is compared
with the serious dignity of Fra Filippo’s picture and that which
follows, by Fra Angelico. By such comparisons the great difference
between true sentiment and affectation in Art becomes apparent.

There are some Annunciations in which the Virgin is represented as
starting up from fear or surprise, quite as one might fancy that a
tragedy queen would do, were her privacy unceremoniously disturbed.

Again the Virgin Mary is fainting from emotion, and thus could not have
replied to the angel in the Scriptural words, “Behold the handmaid of
the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Not infrequently, in representations of this scene, the Holy Spirit, as
a dove, hovers above or near the Virgin, or flies in through a window;
again the Almighty is seen in the clouds, surrounded by a celestial
light, and sometimes attended by celestial spirits. In rare instances
the Eternal Father sends the Infant Jesus down from the sky bearing a
cross, and preceded by a dove. These extremely symbolic Annunciations
are usually of an early date.

Fra Angelico painted the Annunciation with intense reverence and
simplicity. We have an illustration of his fresco on the wall of the
corridor in his convent of San Marco, in Florence, which is, to my mind,
one of the most beautiful and spiritual Annunciations in existence. It
tells the sacred story faithfully; there is nothing introduced that does
not essentially belong here. The Virgin gives the impression of being
equal to the angel in purity and goodness; he is superior only in


Angelico believed that he was divinely directed in his work, which he
began with prayer, and for this reason he would never change his
original design. His care in the finish of his pictures was phenomenal;
his draperies were dignified; his color and composition were harmonious.
It has well been said of his works: “Every part contributed to that
unity of tenderness, inspiration, and religious feeling which marks his
pictures, and which are such as no one man had ever succeeded in
accomplishing.” Angelico knew nothing of human anxieties and struggles,
and could not paint them; he could not depict the hatred of the enemies
of Christ; martyrdoms and persecutions were feebly represented by him,
but to annunciations, coronations of the Virgin, and kindred subjects he
imparted a sweetness and a spiritual fervor that has rarely, if ever,
been surpassed. We can imagine him rising from his prayers with his
conceptions of the Virgin and the archangel as distinct in his mind’s
eye as they are to our vision in his pictures, and it is easy to
understand that the man who lived in his atmosphere would be void of
ambition, and refuse to be made Archbishop of Florence, as he did.

Gabriel is reverenced by the Jews as the chief of the angelic guards,
and the keeper of the celestial treasury. The Mohammedans regard him as
their patron saint; their prophet believed this archangel to be his
inspiring and instructing spirit. Thus he is important in the faith and
legends of Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans alike. Milton may have had
the Jewish tradition in mind when he represented Gabriel as the guardian
of paradise:

    “Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat,
     Chief of the angelic guards, awaiting night.”




The Archangel Raphael is esteemed as the guardian angel of the human
race. He especially protects the young and innocent, and guards pilgrims
and travellers from harm. It was he who warned Adam of the danger of
sin, and declared to him its dread consequences. Milton thus interprets
the message:

    “Be strong, live happy, and love! but first of all
     Him, whom to love is to obey, and keep
     His great command; take heed lest passion sway
     Thy judgment to do aught, which else free-will
     Would not admit; thine, and of all thy sons
     The weal or woe in thee is placed; beware!”

That Raphael’s language was benevolent and sympathetic, as imagined by
the poet, appears in Adam’s farewell to the angel:

                        “Since to part
    Go, heavenly guest, ethereal messenger,
    Sent from whose sovereign goodness I adore!
    Gentle to me, and affable hath been
    Thy condescension, and shall be honor’d ever
    With grateful memory. Thou to mankind
    Be good and friendly still, and oft return!”

Representations of St. Raphael are far less numerous than are those of
St. Michael and St. Gabriel. They are always pleasing, and present him
as a benign, sympathetic, and companionable friend to those whom he
serves. His symbol is habitually a pilgrim’s staff; as a guardian he
wears a sword, and has a small casket or vase, containing the “fishy
charm” against evil spirits. He wears a pilgrim’s dress, has sandals on
his feet, and a pilgrim bottle or wallet hangs from his belt. His
flowing hair is bound by a diadem, and his beautiful face expresses the
benevolence of his character and mission.

Many chapels and some churches are dedicated to the Archangel Raphael,
as the chief of celestial guardians, and in these are numerous pictures
commemorating his benevolent deeds. The greater part of the
representations of this archangel are so connected with the history of
Tobias, that it is necessary to know his story, in order to enjoy or
understand these pictures. I will give this beautiful Hebrew narrative
as concisely as possible:

Tobit was a rich man, and just; and he and his wife, Sara, were carried
into captivity by the Assyrians. He gave alms to all his people, lived
justly, and ate not the bread of the Gentiles. His misfortunes,
however, increased; he had but his wife and his son, Tobias, left to
him, when he became blind, and prayed for death.

At the same time a man named Raguel, who dwelt in Ecbatane, was
afflicted with a daughter who was persecuted by an evil spirit. She had
married seven husbands, and each one had been killed by the fiend, as
soon as he entered the bridal chamber. The maiden was accused of these
murders, and, like Tobit, she prayed for death.

God then sent the Archangel Raphael to cure the blindness of Tobit, and
take away the reproach of the unhappy daughter of Raguel of Ecbatane.

At this time Tobit desired his son, Tobias, to go to Gabael in Media to
receive ten talents, which Tobit had left in trust with Gabael. Tobias
asked, “How can I receive the money, seeing I know him not?” Tobit gave
Tobias the handwriting, and bade him seek a guide for his journey.
Raphael then offered to guide the young man, who knew not that he spoke
with an archangel. Tobias led Raphael to his father, and they agreed
upon the wages the guide should receive, and Tobit gave directions
concerning the journey, while he and Sara, his wife, were greatly
afflicted at parting with Tobias.

At evening the travellers came to the river Tigris, and when Tobias went
to bathe, a fish leapt out at him. Raphael told the youth to take out
the liver and gall of the fish and preserve it carefully, which being
done, they roasted the fish and ate it. When Tobias asked why he should
keep the liver and the gall, the angel told him that the heart and liver
would cure a person vexed with an evil spirit, if a smoke from them was
made before the person; and the gall would cure the blindness of one
afflicted with whiteness of the eyes.

In our illustration from the picture by Andrea del Sarto, in the
Belvedere, Vienna, Tobias carries the fish, and it appears to represent
the moment when Raphael is making his explanation of its purpose.

As they proceeded Raphael said: “Brother, to-day we shall lodge with
Raguel, who is thy cousin; he hath but one daughter, named Sara; I will
ask her as a wife for thee: she belongs to thee by law, and is fair and
wise, and you can marry her when we return.” Then Tobias, who knew the
fate of the seven husbands, was filled with fear lest he too should die,
and thus afflict his parents, who had no other child.

But Raphael assured Tobias that Sara


was the wife that the Lord intended for him, and that when he entered
the marriage chamber the evil spirit would flee at the smoke he should
make with the liver of the fish, and would never return. When Tobias
heard this he loved the maiden, and his heart was effectually joined to

When they came near Ecbatane, they met Sara, and she led them to her
parents, who rejoiced to see them, and wept when they heard of the
blindness of Tobit. While the servants of Raguel prepared a supper,
Tobias said to the angel, “Speak of those things of which thou didst
talk, and let this business be despatched.” Then Raphael asked Raguel to
give Sara to Tobias; but the father was sore distressed, and told of the
death of the seven who had already married her; but as Sara belonged to
Tobias by the law of Moses, his request could not be denied, and before
they did eat together, Raguel joined their hands, and blessed them.

Then the marriage chamber was prepared, and the maiden wept; but her
mother comforted her, and when Tobias entered and made the smoke as the
angel had directed, the evil spirit fled. Tobias and Sara knelt in
thankfulness, and Tobias prayed as Raphael had told him, and Sara said,

In the morning Raguel dug a grave, for he wished to bury Tobias quickly,
that no one should know what had happened; but when he sent to see if he
were dead, it was found that the young husband was quietly sleeping.
Then there was great rejoicing, and a wedding feast was made, which
lasted fourteen days. Meanwhile, Raphael went to Gabael and received
from him the ten talents, and when the feast ended, the angel conducted
Tobias and Sara to Tobit, and Raguel bestowed on Sara half his wealth.

As they approached Nineveh, Raphael said to Tobias, “Let us haste before
thy wife, to prepare the house: and take thou the gall of the fish.” The
mother of Tobias was watching for his return, and was greatly alarmed at
his long absence. When she saw him with his guide, and the little dog
which he had taken away, she ran to Tobit with the news, and they
rejoiced greatly. Raphael now said to Tobias, “I know that thy father
will open his eyes; therefore anoint them with the gall, and being
pricked therewith, he shall rub them, and the whiteness shall fall away,
and he shall see thee.” And so it was, and Tobit was blind no more, and
they all rejoiced and blessed God.

Then Tobias recounted all that had happened, and his parents went out
with him to meet his wife, and her servants, and cattle, and all she
had brought with her. And the people were filled with wonder to see that
Tobit was blind no more, and they rejoiced greatly with him during seven
days when he kept a feast.

Tobit bade his son to call his guide and give him more than the wages
that had been named. And Tobias wished to give the angel half of all he
had brought back with him, and Tobit said, “It is due unto him.” But
when Raphael knew their intentions he commanded them to glorify God for
all his goodness, and told Tobit that his goodness and sorrows and those
of the daughter of Raguel had been known in heaven, and God had sent him
to heal all these troubles; and added, “I am Raphael, one of the seven
holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and go in and out
before the glory of the Holy One.”

Our illustration after the picture of


Giovanni Biliverti in the Pitti Gallery, Florence, places before us the
scene, when, refusing reward, the Archangel declared himself. The beauty
of the angel, the affectionate enthusiasm of Tobias, and the sincere and
reverent gratitude of the old Tobit are wonderfully portrayed, while the
young wife and the aged mother in the background complete the group of
those who have been delivered from their sorrows by the messenger of the
Most High.

From the time when the angel left them Tobit and Raguel prospered, and
after Tobit and Sara died, Tobias removed to Ecbatane and inherited the
wealth of Raguel; he lived with honor to be an hundred and seven and
twenty years old, and to hear of the destruction of Nineveh.

Milton thus refers to the story of Tobias:

              “The affable archangel
      Raphael; the sociable spirit that design’d
        To travel with Tobias, and secured
    His marriage with the seven times wedded maid.”

Raphael is frequently represented without wings when leading Tobias,
who--in order to emphasize the contrast between an angel and a
mortal--is made very small, and is thus manifestly out of keeping with
the story. When the wings appear there is no reason for dwarfing Tobias,
and the picture is far more satisfactory. It is not difficult to discern
that if the story of Tobias is considered as an allegory, the young man
personates the Christian, guided and guarded through life by God’s

There is, in Verona, in the Church of St. Euphemia, a most impressive
chapel which was decorated with pictures illustrating the story of
Tobias, by Carotto, a pupil of Mantegna, who seems to have painted more
in the manner of Leonardo than in that of his master.

Various incidents of the story are effectively pictured, but the famous
altar-piece, the greatest work by Carotto, is the most important of the
number. It represents the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and
Raphael,--three exquisite wingless figures,--the latter being in the
centre, and the only one having an aureole. He is leading Tobias, and
looking down at the youth with an expression of tenderness.

St. Michael is on the right; one hand rests on his great sword, while
with the other he lifts his crimson robe. His countenance, serious and
indomitable in expression, fitly indicates the characteristics that his
titles imply. He is the Lord of Souls and the Angel of Judgment, so far
as human imagination can picture so exalted a celestial being.

St. Gabriel, on the left, holding a lily, and gazing heavenward in
adoration, is a beautiful, angelic figure, far less powerful than the
other archangels, and quite in harmony with his office.

The impression on my mind, made by this picture, is that Gabriel
realizes that his blessed office has been fulfilled, his active work is
done, and adoration is now his duty and his joy; but Michael and Raphael
have still their great missions to perfect; they are still battling
against evil, and guiding men in the paths of righteousness.

Carotto was a native of Verona, and his pictures are rarely seen
elsewhere. His color is warm and well blended, while his drawing is
severe. It is said that he was but twenty-five years old when he
decorated the Chapel of St. Raphael, in 1495. He was of a quick wit, and
when told that the legs of his angels were



too slender, he instantly replied, “Then they will fly the easier.”

A very famous and wonderful picture of the three archangels with Tobias,
by Botticelli, is in the Academy of Florence. The angels of this artist
are frequently criticised for a certain stiffness, but their beautiful
faces more than redeem any fault in their figures, and have a sweetness
and depth of expression that appeals to the heart and makes one forget
less important details.

A picture of St. Raphael leading Tobias, in the Church of St. Marziale
in Venice, is said to be the earliest remaining work by Titian. For this
reason it is most interesting, but it is certainly not so beautiful as
that of Carotto, nor as that of Raphael, called the Madonna del
Pesce,--the Madonna of the Fish,--in the Madrid Gallery, in which the
master pictures the archangel whose name he bore.

Of this last picture Passavant says, “Here Christian poetry has found
its highest expression; for it is poetry which touches all nations the
most deeply, and beauty alone can give an idea of divinity.”

In the famous Madonna del Pesce, the Virgin is seated on a throne with
the child; the young Tobias, holding a fish in his hand, and led by the
Archangel Raphael, comes to implore Jesus to cure his father’s
blindness. The Infant Saviour looks at Tobias, while his hand is on an
open book which St. Jerome holds before him; the symbolic lion crouches
at the feet of the saint. The background of the picture is principally
formed by a curtain, but on the right a small opening of sky is seen.

The whole picture is executed in the best style of the artist’s mature
power, while it is full of the fervent piety of his earlier works. The
Virgin is the ideal of purity and loveliness; the child is radiant with
divine beauty; the angel is celestial in his bearing and his
countenance, while the head of the reverend saint is grand and noble in

Raphael’s Madonnas sometimes seem to be but simple domestic women,
gifted with beauty; in them no trace of a mystical or spiritual nature
appears; but the Madonna del Pesce, like the Madonna di San Sisto, and
the Madonna di Fuligno, justifies the eulogy of Vasari, when he says,
“Raphael has shown all the beauty which can be imagined in the
expression of a Virgin; in the eyes there is modesty, on the brow there
shines honor, the nose is of a very graceful character, the mouth
betokens sweetness and excellence.” The color of the Madonna del Pesce
is admirably clear and harmonious, even for this great master.

This Madonna was originally painted for the Church of San Domenico
Maggiore, at Naples, in which church a chapel had been erected as an
especial place of worship for the numerous Neapolitans who suffer from
diseases of the eye; it was not, however, permitted to serve its
intended purpose, and has had an interesting history.

It is said that the Duke of Medina, when Viceroy of Naples, took the
picture from the Dominicans without the consent of the government, and
when the prior complained to the Pope, Medina had him escorted to the
frontier by fifty horsemen, and expelled from the kingdom. In 1644 the
Duke took the Virgin with the Fish to Spain, and Philip IV. placed it in
the Escurial. In 1813, when the French were compelled to leave Spain,
they took this picture, with many others, to Paris.

It was painted on a panel and was in bad condition, and Bonnemaison was
commissioned to transfer it to canvas. This work was not completed in
1815, when other pictures which had been taken from Spain were returned,
and this Madonna remained in France until 1822. Naturally, it must have
lost something of its original excellence, but it still holds a place of
honor in the wonderful Italian Gallery of the Madrid Museum; it is a
rival of the famous Dresden Madonna--di San Sisto--in the regard of many
connoisseurs in art.

The various scenes from the story of Raphael and Tobias have been
represented in the works of artists of all nations. Rembrandt four times
painted the parting of Tobias from his father and mother, and several
other incidents in the story. His picture in the Louvre, of the
departure of the Archangel, is remarkable for its spirited action. As
the angel ascends, flying through the air, he seems to part the clouds
as a strong swimmer passes through the breakers of the sea.

There have been many curious conceits introduced into some of the early
religious pictures, and I have seen two instances in which little
seraphim and angels are perched on trees, near the Virgin and Holy
Child. The idea seems to be that these “Birds of God”--as Dante calls
the angels--are making music and singing for the Divine Infant, some of
them also praying for his solace.

Occasionally a series of pictures called the Acts of the Holy Angels has
been painted. It consists of eleven strictly Scriptural subjects,
usually as follows, but varied in some instances by the introduction of
other motives of the same character, as, for example, the angel
appearing to Hagar and to Elijah:

   I. The Fall of Lucifer.
  II. The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
 III. The Visit of Three Angels to Abraham.
  IV. The Angel Preventing the Sacrifice of Isaac.
   V. The Angel Wrestling with Jacob.
  VI. Jacob’s Dream.
 VII. The Deliverance of the Three Children from the Fiery Furnace.
VIII. The Angel Slays the Host of Sennacherib.
  IX. The Angel Protects Tobias.
   X. The Punishment of Heliodorus.
  XI. The Annunciation to the Virgin.

I have already said that of the seven archangels to whom Milton refers,
when he says:

                        “The Seven
    Who in God’s presence, nearest to his throne,
    Stand ready at command,”

but three are recognized by the Christian Church; and when three
archangels are seen together, they are Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
In the Greek Church this representation is regarded as typical of the
military, civil, and religious power, and, accordingly, the costumes
indicate a soldier, a prince, and a priest.

But Uriel has not been entirely ignored, even by the Christian Church,
and an early tradition teaches that this archangel, and not Christ,
accompanied the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. In the book of
Esdras we read, “The angel that was sent unto me, whose name was Uriel.”
His office was that of interpreter of judgments and prophecies, which
Milton recognizes thus:

    “Uriel, for thou of those Seven Spirits that stand
     In sight of God’s high throne, gloriously bright,
     The first art wont his great authentic will
     Interpreter through highest heaven to bring.”

In several ancient churches four archangels are represented in the
architectural decoration. An example in which they are very splendid is
that in the mosaics above the choir arch in the Cathedral of Monreale,
Palermo. These colossal, armed figures are impressive, not only from
their size, but also because of their apparent realization of their
illustrious rank in the order of created beings.

More frequently the four archangels are so represented as to appear to
sustain the roof, or vault, in churches where the figure of Christ, or
his symbol, the Lamb, is pictured as the central decoration. These are
clearly intended to personate the four “who sustain the throne of God.”
Their symbols are sceptres or lances; at times they stand erect, like
faithful, watchful guardians; again with arms outstretched they seem to
uphold the vault on which Christ is portrayed.

The representations of three archangels are more numerous than the
above, and are variously treated. In some ancient pictures they have no
wings, and appear like men of princely rank and noble character. I have
seen the visitors of Abraham thus represented, which accords with the
Hebrew idea of angels at the period when Abraham was thus honored; for,
as I have mentioned, it was not until after the captivity, when the
Egyptian custom of giving wings to their representations of messengers
had been observed, that the cherubim and seraphim covered the mercy-seat
with their wings.

One of the best known and most beautiful pictures of these angelic
visitors is that by Raphael in the fourth arcade of the Loggie of the



From the classification of the angelic hosts by the early theologians,
and the special duties assigned to each class, we learn that the word
angels, as ordinarily used, refers to archangels and angels only; these
two classes are associated with human life in all its phases, while
princedoms protect monarchies, thrones sustain the throne of God,
cherubs continually worship, and seraphs adore the Most High.

A belief in guardian angels--those especially devoted to the care of
individuals--is far more widespread than the realism of the present day
is inclined to admit. The godly man has a sure warrant for this trust in
the ninety-first psalm:

     “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most
     High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither
     shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his
     angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

We cannot think of angels as a reality in the winged, human forms that
have been given them in Art, any more than we can look for mermaids to
rise from the waters mentioned in the charming legends in which these
maidens acted their parts. These imaginary and apparently palpable
angels are but allegories, which long have been and continue to be the
angels of Art, and we could not willingly give them up. We know that


they are impossible, even fantastic, if we permit ourselves to be
matter-of-fact; but as emblems of spiritual guardians, sent to mortals
by an ever-watchful Father, we love them; and we wish to believe in
guardian angels for those who are dear to us, even if we cannot realize
them for ourselves.

In one of the early councils of the Church the form of angels was
considered, and it was maintained by John of Thessalonica that they were
in shape like men, and should be thus represented. This decision is
supported by the supposition that God spoke to the angels when he said,
“Let us make man after _our_ image;” and again by Daniel, when he
describes his heavenly visitors as “like unto the similitude of the sons
of men.”

A guardian angel must be ever beside his charge from the beginning to
the end of life, not only to guard from evil, but also to incite to
good. In sorrow he is a comforter; in weakness, strength; even in death
he is faithful, and contends against the evil spirits who fight for the
possession of every soul; and after death he bears the spirit to St.
Michael, the Lord of Souls. Thus is the guardian angel represented in
Art, as is seen in our illustration called the Angel of Peace.

When we observe a beautiful, unselfish life that rises far above its
surroundings, we recall the belief in angelic guardians, and the
description which Milton gave of a chaste, saintly soul:

    “A thousand liveried angels lackey her,
     Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt;
     And in clear dream and solemn vision
     Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear,
     Till oft converse with heav’nly habitants
     Begin to cast a beam on th’ outward shape.”

The impersonality of angels is one of their most precious qualities. An


is never active except as the agent of the Almighty, deputed to manifest
his mercy and love to the pious, or to inflict his punishments on the
wicked. Thus angels must be perfect beings; and while they love to
serve, their service is void of the personality which is inherent in all
human service. When they sing together it is because some good has come
to men, and when they mourn it is for human affliction.

According to the teaching of the Fathers of the Church to which we have
referred, the combat between good and evil angels is unceasing, and they
also warrant Christians in invoking the aid of angels, and believing
them to be ever near to prevent evil and encourage good. From the views
of the early theologians the artists evolved their manner of
representing the hosts of heaven, and while for a time angels were
represented as colossal, gradually they became more graceful and
lovely, as well as more human.

An ideal, a thought, must be personified to be represented to the eye,
and I doubt if any new personification of angels could satisfactorily
replace that which has been developed in Art during sixteen centuries,
and to which we are accustomed from our earliest childhood. The angels
that are known in pictures, watching over children, preventing harm to
individuals, as in the sacrifice of Isaac, encouraging or even
compelling worthy action, as in the case of Balaam, are dear to the
heart of the world.

The representations of guardian angels in the more homely relations,
watching sleeping infants, guiding their feeble steps,--as is seen in
our frontispiece,--and shielding them from accidents, are modern. To the
end of the sixteenth century guardian angels, while engaged in all
these minor duties, according to the teaching of the Church, were only
represented in Art as performing solemn and superhuman deeds.

This may have resulted from the fixed belief of the old artists in these
angelic beings, and their deep reverence for them, while modern artists
are simply seeking a graceful and poetic subject. But, be this as it
may, the angels who perform miracles to prevent the torture of Christian
martyrs and other superhuman acts, are as essentially guardian angels as
are those bending over cradles and gathering blossoms for children in
the fields.

After the guardians, the choristers, or musical angels, most appeal to
us. They are beautiful in their representations, and fulfil an ideal
mission. Their hymns of praise are not all devoted to the pure worship
of the Almighty,--except as he is all and in all,--since they rejoice
and sing when blessings are conferred upon mankind.

How exquisite is the story in the second chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel,
when the single angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds,
“and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.’” In the final sentences of this heavenly
chant we have the assurance that angels delight to sing of happiness to

There is much that appeals to our imagination in the thought of these
heavenly musicians. We fancy their perfect instruments attuned to
perfect voices, creating such harmonies as no earthly orchestra can

    “The harp, the solemn pipe
     And dulcimer, all organs of sweet stop.”


In the early days of Christian Art, painters and sculptors alike
delighted in the representation of musical angels, and it is surprising
to find in how many scenes they are not only appropriate but
indispensable. Our illustration, after Perugino, is from his picture of
the Assumption of the Virgin in the Florentine Academy.

They are most fittingly present at the coronations of Jesus and the
Virgin; they gladly welcomed the just to heaven; they join in the hymn
of St. Cecilia, which they must have inspired; they are always in
harmony with pictures of the Madonna and child, and, in short, numerous
as are the representations of them, they are never too many.

It would seem that certain sculptors and painters must have seen these
blessed beings in visions, and listened to their music, so wonderfully
did they embody them in statues and on canvas. Della Robbia, Ghiberti,
Fra Angelico, Ghirlandajo, Melozzo da Forli, Vivarini, Gian Bellini,
Raphael, Palma, must all have seen, at least with the eyes of the
spirit, the angelic choirs which make so precious a part of their legacy
to us.

The difference in the sentiments with which these angelic choristers
seem to be inspired lends them a peculiar charm. Now they are alone
intent on solemnly praising God; again they seem full of such
overflowing joy as can only be expressed in vocal harmonies, in
symphonies with viol, pipe, harp, and lute. Nowhere are these angels
more lovely than when, with their sweet faces turned to the Infant
Jesus, they chant their love for him.

Cherubim and seraphim are technically the adoring angels, as they are
represented in pictures of God, the Father. But adoring angels are
frequently seen in pictures of the Madonna and Child, as well as in
scenes from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin. Sometimes they appear in
great numbers, as in Angelico’s picture of the Last Judgment; or in
smaller groups, as the three adoring angels by Francesco Granacci; or
singly, as in the case of the angel with bowed head, who stands behind
the Virgin in the Madonna and Angels, by Boticelli; the last three
pictures being among our illustrations.

Mourning angels appear more frequently in sculpture than in painting,
and are much used as monuments to the dead; but there are pictures in
which angels show their sympathy with sorrow and suffering. While from
their nature they cannot be unhappy, they are not represented as joyful
in pictures of the Crucifixion and other sorrowful scenes in the lives
of Jesus, the Virgin, or saintly martyrs. They hide their faces, wring
their hands, and manifest their sympathetic grief in various ways. I
recall a picture of a mourning angel kneeling before a crown of thorns
with tears upon his face.

There are occasional pictures of kneeling angels, who have the
appearance of praying. Artists have naturally manifested their
individuality in their works, but I do not recall any Scripture warrant
for representing angels as themselves praying, although they are present
with mortals who pray. It is, however, not inconsistent with their
mission to bear the prayers of mortals to the throne of God and to
return with a blessing.

In the early centuries of the Church there was a well-established belief
that wicked spirits had power over men and tempted them to all manner of
sins; they especially desired, it was taught, to lead


the pious to revolt against the true religion, and to become idolaters,
as they had themselves revolted against the Almighty. It was also
believed that good and evil spirits constantly contended over every
human being, the struggle between angels and demons being unending.

Devils are introduced in many pictures, and are easily recognized by
their demoniacal appearance. Frequently they are very small and
numerous. They are represented as hovering above death-beds, they
rejoice in the persecution of the martyrs, and wherever seen, are the
very personification of all that is repulsive and loathsome.

The most important pictures in which the devil is represented as a human
being are scenes in the temptation of Jesus, when he was led into the
wilderness to be tempted forty days. Shakespeare says that “the devil
hath power to assume a pleasing shape,” but apparently artists have not
recognized this. In their pictures of him there is always some
characteristic which at once discloses his personality. His skin is an
ugly brown, or the hoofs which he endeavors to hide are disclosed, or
the repulsive expression of his face warns one of his dangerous

Happily such pictures are not numerous, but an ideal of the
repulsiveness of the Father of Lies has been conceived by many from the
famous representations of him by Raphael and Guido, in their pictures of
his conquest by St. Michael. In numerous cases, however, the presence of
Satan is indicated by symbols. The dragon and the serpent are the
usually accepted emblems of the Evil Spirit, but there are many
variations of this symbolism. A horrid dragon head with open mouth
typifies hell. Frequently the serpent has an apple in his mouth and
thus personates the wily tempter of Mother Eve; but in many cases the
serpent has no relation to the fall of man, and is personified evil.



Besides the representations of angels in art in accordance with the
imagination of individual artists, there are two important classes of
angelic subjects, one of which rests upon the authority of the
Scriptures, and the other upon that of the sacred legends. A
comprehensive treatment of these works would require several volumes of
the size of this book; but I will here give a suggestive outline of

The first mention of angels in the Old Testament occurs in the third
chapter of Genesis, when it is related that cherubims were placed at
the east of the Garden of Eden, to keep the way to the Tree of Life.
Good pictures of this subject are as rare as they are beautiful. In them
the exquisite garden, the radiant cherubim, and the dazzling light from
the flaming sword, combine in producing a glorious effect.

In connection with the story of Abraham, angels frequently appear. The
sacrifice of Isaac is always an interesting subject, symbolizing, as it
does, in the submission of Isaac, that of Jesus, and in the willingness
of Abraham to give his son in sacrifice, that of the Divine Father to
give his well-beloved Son for the salvation of men. The appearance of
the angel to prevent the consummation of the sacrifice has been painted
many times, notably by Andrea del Sarto, whose poetical pictures of this
scene are in the Dresden and Madrid galleries.

The picture by Rembrandt is powerful, and painfully realistic. It is in
the Hermitage at St. Petersburg. The same scene in the Church of Santa
Maria della Salute, Venice, is by Titian, and is among the famous works
of this great master.

Our illustration after a picture by Il Sodoma, in the Cathedral of Pisa,
is in the best style of that master, who has been called the pride of
the Sienese school. His acknowledged power to render intense feeling is
seen in the face of Abraham, while the angel is an example of his
conception of beauty; the submissive Isaac, missing the pressure of his
father’s hand from his shoulder, without changing his position, turns
his eyes to discover the reason for the delay of the expected blow.

In the story of Hagar an angel twice appears, and one is surprised that
these charming subjects have so rarely been


painted, while the more disagreeable expulsion of Hagar from the home of
her youth has been frequently represented; the picture of this scene by
Guercino, in the Brera at Milan, is famous, and certainly tells the
story of “Cast out the bondwoman and her son” with directness; but there
is an element of vulgarity in it that so detracts from its good
qualities as to make one wonder that it could have been so much admired.

A far more tender subject is that which pictures Hagar in the wilderness
alone, and repentant of her fault, for which Sarah had chastened her; it
is at this moment that the angel appears and commands her return to
Abraham. A fine example of this rare subject by Pietro da Cortona is in
the Belvedere, at Vienna. Rubens also painted this scene.

A picture that is even more pathetic represents Hagar and Ishmael in
the wilderness of Beersheba. Ishmael is fainting from thirst, and Hagar
flings herself to the ground with the prayer, “Let me not see the death
of the child,” when an angel appears to comfort her, and guide her to a
hidden spring. The pathos of this scene must appeal to every mother, and
a picture of it by Rembrandt is so fine that one can but regret that it
is not in a public collection.

The visit of the three angels to Abraham is also a rare subject in Art.
I have already referred to that painted by Raphael, in the Vatican.
Murillo also represented it in a picture now in a private gallery in
England. In neither of these pictures have the angels wings.

The three beautiful figures by Raphael, however, are not like any men
whom we have seen; they impress one as beings of another and a far
higher sphere than ours. Murillo, on the contrary, shows us three
ordinary travellers, and but for the title of the picture, we should not
suspect that these men were celestial visitors. A large picture of this
subject by Rembrandt is one of the treasures of the Hermitage.

Jacob’s dream, with the ascending and descending angels, is an exquisite
motive for illustration, and has been variously pictured. A single angel
sometimes watches the sleeper, as if to inspire his dream and bring him
a blessing; again, there are many angels, and again, but a small number,
who move here and there, up and down, imparting a remarkable effect of
airy, graceful motion. The ladder, too, is widely varied, being
represented by one or several flights of steps, ascending to the clouds.

In the sixth arcade of the Vatican loggie is Raphael’s third and best
representation of this dream. Here Jacob’s face is turned towards the
ladder, on which are six angels; Jehovah appears above with outstretched
arms, and surrounded by a glory. It is not one of the best of Raphael’s
works, and, indeed, all representations of Jacob’s dream that I have
seen, are, to my mind, insufficient when compared with that of
Rembrandt, in the Dulwich gallery. This is a poem as essentially as it
is a picture. A stream of dazzling light forms the ladder, up and down
which float mystic, radiant angels. The whole impression is so like a
dream, so intangible, and yet so apparent, that one wonders how
Rembrandt, who so often dwelt upon the all too solid elements of his
motives, here caught the innermost spirit of this most spiritual

“The Comforting of Elijah” is a subject with rare possibilities, but has
been seldom represented.

Rubens painted a picture of this scene as symbolical of the Lord’s
Supper, the angel presenting to Elijah the bread and a chalice.
Following a custom of some landscape painters who introduced a
subject--mythological, historical, or Scriptural--into their pictures,
Paul Potter represented the “Comforting of Elijah” in the foreground of
one of his pictures. It also occurs in some ancient illuminated Bibles.

William Blake’s illustration of the text in Job, “When the morning stars
sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” is famous for
the unusual character of the angels. Like many pictures by this poet,
who was esteemed as half mad, it has an element of other worldliness
which is rarely seen in works of his era. Of this especial picture Mrs.
Jameson wrote: “His adoring angels float rather than fly, and, with
their half liquid draperies, seem about to dissolve into light and
love; and his rejoicing angels--behold them--sending up their voices
with the morning stars, that, singing, in their glory, move.”

The Vision of Ezekiel, in the Pitti Gallery, in Florence, is, so far as
I know, a unique representation of this subject. Raphael painted it for
Count Ercolani in Bologna. It is mentioned as early as 1589, in the
Inventory of the Tribune, and has been engraved and copied many times.

Jehovah is represented seated in a glory of cherubim’s heads, which are
almost unnoticeable by reason of the exceeding brightness illustrative
of the text, “And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire
round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and
from the appearance of his loins even downward. I saw as it were the
appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.” In accordance
with this text also, Jehovah is nude in the upper portion of the figure,
the lower portion being draped in purple. Near the Jehovah are the four
animals symbolic of the evangelists, the cherub, the lion, the ox, and
the eagle, not earthly creations, but mysterious and spiritual as they
float along bearing the Messiah, while two small angels are near with
outstretched arms.

The sky effects of this wonderful picture are fine; the gray clouds are
rolling away, as if for the purpose of disclosing the vision. This
picture has been criticised on account of the nude figure of Jehovah; it
has been said to be a more proper representation of Jupiter than of the
Almighty, but Raphael is justified by the text itself.

Perhaps no representation exists which more acceptably renders the
symbolic nature of the Four Beasts than does this. The exact imitation
of nature, which appeared later in works of Art, is entirely opposed to
the true meaning of these emblems, which was sacred and mystical. The
cherub typifies St. Matthew, because his Gospel sets forth the human
nature of Christ more forcibly than the divine. The lion was appropriate
to St. Mark, because he first speaks of “the voice of one crying in the
wilderness,” typical of the lion. The ox belongs to St. Luke, since he
dwells on the priesthood of Christ, the ox symbolizing sacrifice; the
eagle to St. John, as the emblem of his inspiration, by which he wrote
so sublimely of the divinity of Jesus.

There are several other explanations of these symbols which are so often
seen in works of Art. But in this especial picture of the “Vision of
Ezekiel,” it would seem as if the throne of the Son of Man is composed
of these mystic beasts, while the angels are attending him, and gaze
into his face, as if watching for some service to be rendered.

When the Four Beasts are so pictured as to recall those who were full of
eyes within, and rest not day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord
God Almighty” (Revelation iv., 7), they fulfil the intention of the
symbol of the early Church, as it was understood by those to whom it was
sacred. But when, in the hands of an irreligious and realistic artist,
they become “as the beasts of the field,” his work is but a travesty
upon the mysterious religious symbols, which he thus debases.

The New Testament gives us a clearer idea of the nature and offices of
angels than we obtain from the Hebrew Scriptures. We learn of their
great numbers from the words of Jesus, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now
pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve
legions of angels?” (Matthew xxvi., 53), and from Paul, when he speaks
of the “innumerable company of angels.” In the Gospels of St. Matthew
and St. Luke we learn that they are superior to human affections, and
not subject to change. “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor
are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God” (Matthew xxii.,
30). “Neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels”
(Luke xx., 36). By the words of Jesus, however, we are assured of the
sympathy of angels in all that concerns our spiritual good. In Luke xv.,
10, Jesus says, “Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence
of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

The belief that angels bear the souls of

[Illustration: MELOZZO DA FORLI.--AN ANGEL.]

the redeemed to heaven, rests largely on the declaration by St. Luke
that “the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s
bosom;” and in Hebrews i., 14, St. Paul teaches that they are “sent
forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”

In the annunciations of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus, the
angels were the messengers of God, as they so frequently were when they
appeared in the Old Testament.

That angels are attendant on Christ is taught in the declaration of St.
Matthew that “the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with
his angels.” And again, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory,
and all the holy angels with him.”

That angels are deputed to perform such acts as make for the
accomplishment of Christ’s mission is shown in Acts v., 19, when an
angel liberated the Apostles from prison, and commanded them to “speak
in the temple to the people all the words of life.”

When writing to the Romans, St. Paul speaks of angels, principalities,
and powers, thus enumerating the different orders of angels, and
declares their inability to separate us from the love of God, thus
implying that they can do nothing that does not accord with the will of
the Almighty,--that they have no power in themselves. Again, in writing
to the Colossians, St. Paul speaks of things “visible and invisible,”
and enumerates thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, while to
the Ephesians he declares that God has placed Christ above all these
orders of celestial beings.

After the annunciations to Zacharias and the Virgin Mary, an angel next
appears, in the New Testament story, to instruct Joseph concerning the
miraculous conception of Jesus. The appearance to the shepherds follows,
of which I have spoken in connection with the subject of angelic choirs.

Again, Joseph was warned by an angel to flee into Egypt with Mary and
the young Child, to escape the anger of Herod. In ancient series of
pictures illustrating the life of St. Joseph, this scene was curiously
portrayed, and but one modern painter, so far as I know, has been moved
to represent it. In the Belvedere, in Vienna, there is an admirable
Dream of Joseph, by Anton Raphael Mengs.

Pictures of St. John the Baptist in the wilderness are variously
treated, and when he is represented as very young, he is attended by
ministering angels. This treatment is warranted by the legend which
teaches that he was a mere child of seven or eight years, and is
supported by the word of St. Luke in the last verse of the first chapter
of his Gospel, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was
in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”

The pictures of the Baptism of Christ are numerous, and the number of
attendant angels is varied from two to four, as a rule, although there
are examples with even a larger number. Raphael, Verrocchio, Paul
Veronese, Francesco Albani, Perugino, Tintoretto, and many others
painted fine pictures of this subject, which, besides its great interest
from its importance in the life of the Saviour, affords an opportunity
for the representation of a beautiful landscape. The picture by Rubens
excels in this regard; and in his magnificent setting he has a group of
about thirty figures, producing the gorgeous effect which characterizes
his work, but failing to suggest the divinity of Christ, or the
devotional feeling of the works of Raphael or Verrocchio, and entirely
lacking the tenderness of Lorenzo di Credi.

The Bible also contains various texts which authorize a belief in the
existence of Satan and his demons. Isaiah exclaims, “How art thou fallen
from heaven, O Lucifer, Son of the Morning.” St. Matthew speaks of the
devil and all his angels, and many other Biblical expressions warrant us
in believing that the Spirit of Evil with his attendants is ever
tempting men to sin, thus plainly warranting the Fathers in their
teaching, to which we have referred.

It is not possible to picture the Temptation of Christ in an attractive
manner. Satan has been represented in various monstrous and repulsive
forms by some artists, while others have given him such disguises as
might well deceive an ordinary mortal. He has thus been presented in the
garb and with the bearing of a venerable peasant, and again as a monk
with robe and cowl, but his especial symbols usually manifest
themselves, in spite of all disguises.

The picture by Ary Scheffer, in the Louvre, which our illustration
reproduces, tells the story of the temptation very simply and directly.
The style of this painter, sad and almost hopeless, is well suited to
subjects of this nature. The contrast between the perfect serenity of
the Saviour, and the hideous anxiety and determination of Satan, renders
this representation as acceptable as so unlovely a subject can be made.

In Perugino’s famous picture in the Sala del Incendio, in the Vatican,
Jesus and Satan are seen in mid-air, like a vision, while in the


surrounded by a dazzling light, another figure of Jesus is seen between
two ministering angels, while the whole scene is encircled by a
multitude of cherubim and angels.

In some pictures of this subject angels are represented as if waiting to
support the Master when he shall turn from the demon, but far more
attractive than these are the representations in which Satan does not
appear, and angels minister to Christ in the wilderness, as if
illustrating these beautiful lines:

    “They in a flowery valley set him down
     On a green bank, and straight before him spread
     A table of celestial food--divine
     Ambrosial fruits, fetched from the Tree of Life--
     And from the fount of life celestial drink.
           And as he fed, angelic quires
     Sang heavenly anthems.”

One of Murillo’s splendid works was founded on the account of the pool
at Bethesda, as given in John v., 2-8. This was a favorite subject for
hospitals, and Murillo painted it for a hospital in Seville, from which
it was stolen by Marshal Soult.

In the foreground are Christ, the lame man, and three Apostles; in the
background is the pool with its fine porches, above which, in a
glorious, dazzling light, the angel hovers, as if about to descend to
stir the waters.

It is a magnificent example of the wonderful power of Murillo. The
beauty and tenderness of the head of Christ, and the graciousness of his
whole bearing, affect the beholder as do few representations of our
Lord. The atmosphere is soft and translucent, the angel gently floats
rather than flies, and the porches, while not too ornate, impart a
dignified balance to the scene. The coloring is such as is peculiar to
Spanish art, rich and subdued in contrast with that of the Italians.
For example, the red robe and blue mantle, so familiar in pictures of
Christ, are here replaced by a rich violet color, most harmonious with
the sentiment of the scene.

There is an ancient picture of this subject in a church near Bologna,
supposed to be the work of two artists, Jacopo Avanzi, and Lippo
d’Almasio. In the same city, in the Church of San Giorgio, is the
picture by Ludovico Caracci, which is, to say the least, very
decorative, and has been generously praised by some writers on Art. Many
representations of the pool of Bethesda are in hospitals,--as, for
example, that by Sebastian Conca at Siena,--rather than in galleries;
for this reason it is less familiar than are many other scenes in which
angels are represented.

There are some subjects too sacred in their character and too
spiritually subtle in their significance to be adequately pictured to
the eye. One of these, to my mind, is the Agony in the Garden of
Gethsemane. It has, however, appealed to many artists, and one must
admit that the night scene, the sleeping disciples, the suffering
Christ, the consoling angel, the approaching traitor, and the dimly
discerned city of Jerusalem afford unusually picturesque elements for an
effective picture. All these have been artistically treated, but The
Divine, the central thought in the scene, can scarcely be satisfactorily

A most surprising error that has frequently been made in pictures of
this subject, is that of giving undue prominence to the sleeping
disciples. Their figures are often placed in the very foreground, as if
the spectator should chiefly consider the unfortunate somnolence of


these men; by which means the figures of Jesus and the angel are made to
appear as secondary. I have seen no picture in which the sleeping
disciples are satisfactorily introduced, and I greatly prefer certain
curious ancient representations of the Agony, in which Christ and the
angel only are present.

Many famous artists, from the time of Mantegna, have painted their
conceptions of the wonderful scene in the Garden. Correggio has at least
made Jesus the chief person, and his angel is apparently suited to his
office of a comforter. Paul Veronese, Albert Dürer, and Rembrandt have
all painted powerful pictures of this subject, and Ary Scheffer has
depicted the Agony of Christ with living vividness; but one and all of
these works fall so far short of one’s highest conception of this
wonderful event, that, except as examples of the design, coloring, and
manner of these masters, they appear to me of little value.

The visit of the women to the sepulchre of Christ is variously
represented, as would naturally result from the different accounts given
by the Evangelists. Some pictures represent Mary Magdalene alone, when
she saw two angels sitting where the body of Christ had lain, and almost
immediately beheld the risen Lord near by, as in our illustration after
Burne-Jones. Again, the other women are pictured who saw two men in
shining garments, and were told, “He is not here, but is risen;” more
frequently the three Maries are represented coming to the sepulchre,
bearing spices, and finding the guards paralyzed with terror, and an
angel who tells them that the Lord is risen.

These scenes have been represented in Art from its earliest and rudest
beginning, and were rendered with perfect simplicity, strictly
following the clear scriptural account. Later, the guards were omitted,
and the whole scene took on a more dramatic air, until, in the sixteenth
century, this subject was rarely painted, and has not again resumed its
earlier importance. It makes one in a series of subjects illustrating
the life of Christ, but is rarely seen as a separate work. Annibale
Caracci painted a picture of the Women at the Sepulchre, which is now in
the Hermitage at St. Petersburg; and in Siena there still exists an
example of the same subject by Duccio, who lived in the thirteenth

Pictures of the Last Judgment, as usually painted, are illustrative of a
combination of scriptural teaching with the imaginative suggestions of
preachers, writers on religious subjects, poets, and artists, and
elements from the sacred legends. There is no scriptural warrant for the
presence of Satan and his demons in this scene, horribly effective and
impressive as they are; but I have reason to think that this element is
thoughtlessly accepted as authoritative by many who interest themselves
in religious art.

This subject was not represented in sculpture or painting before the
eleventh century, and but rarely after that until three centuries later,
when it was wonderfully portrayed, notably by Orcagna, in the Campo
Santo at Pisa.

The portions of these pictures for which there is scriptural authority
are important. Christ is the Judge in accordance with his own words,
Matthew xvi., 27: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his
Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to
his works.” And still more emphatically in Matthew xxv., 31-46, where
the word-picture of the Judgment is a vividly realistic description of
some artistic representations of this scene.

The Apostles seated on each side of Christ are also warranted by his
words in Luke xxii., 30: “That ye may ... sit on thrones judging the
twelve tribes of Israel.” The Virgin, St. John the Baptist, patriarchs,
prophets, and saints are all admissible on the authority of St. Paul,
who says, I. Corinthians vi., 2: “Do ye not know that the saints shall
judge the world?” And in the following sentence: “Know ye not that we
shall judge angels?”

The angels are deputed to “gather together his elect from the four
winds,” Mark xiii., 27, and those who fill this office are the trumpet
angels in all these representations.

The division of those to be judged rests, on Daniel xii., 2: “And many
of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to
everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt;” and even
more positively on Christ’s words in Matthew xxv., already referred to.

In the utter absence of scriptural warrant for the picturing of the
devil and his satellites, who seize, torture, and hurl into hell those
doomed to shame and endless contempt, what defence of it can be made?
Certainly none from an artistic standpoint; and this consideration
should have prevented such representations. Artists should be
commiserated who could not sufficiently express the woe of the condemned
by the wretchedness of their faces and manner, as, hearing the fatal
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the
devil and his angels,” they go to the left, not daring


to raise their eyes to Christ, nor even to look at the blessed of his

It would be a pleasure to consider separately the different methods of
representing the Judge of all the world and those surrounding him, as
seen in the works of the masters, but we are here concerned with the
angels alone, of which, in nearly all these pictures, there are three

The angels who hold the cross, scourge, nails, crown of thorns, and
other symbols of the Passion of Christ, emphasize the theological
teaching that men are judged according to their acceptance or rejection
of the Atonement by Christ for the sins of the world. In early pictures
of the Judgment these angels stand on clouds, below the Judge, but later
they were depicted as hovering above the Judgment Seat. In whatever
position they are placed, they appear to attribute a vast importance to
the prominence of the symbols of the Passion. Fra Angelico happily
places a single angel at the feet of Christ with the cross alone, as a
complete symbol of the suffering and death of Jesus.

The trumpet angels vary in number from two to many, and are differently
placed according to the varying designs of the artists. Orcagna and Fra
Angelico placed them below the Judge, thus indicating that their sound
could be heard in all the earth. In other pictures, they sound the
trumpets directly above the graves, which open, displaying the rising
dead, startled from their long sleep and struggling to gain a foothold
on the earth above.

The third class of angels are those who announce their fate to all who
are to be judged. They sometimes hold the balance in which souls are
weighed; again, they direct those who come to judgment to the right or
left, as in our picture from the Last Judgment by Fra Angelico, in the
Florentine Academy; and, again, as in Orcagna’s great picture in the
Campo Santo at Pisa, a grand warrior angel, with splendid wings,--a true
St. Michael,--clad in full armor, with his sword by his side, a glorious
halo about his head, and the angelic flame above his brow, holds out two
scrolls,--one of joy and one of woe,--on which are written the names of
the entire human race.

The pictures of the Last Judgment by Orcagna, Angelico, and Signorelli,
in the Cathedral of Orvieto, and Michael Angelo, in the Sistine Chapel,
are among the famous pictures of the world.

The Scriptures mention still other appearances of angels, as that to
Cornelius, when he was directed to send to Joppa for Peter; and, again,
when Peter was in prison and the Church prayed for him, an angel led
him forth and the Apostle departed to Cesarea for safety.

Philip was sent by an angel to meet the Ethiopian eunuch, and teach him
the truth, after which he baptized the eunuch, and was then caught away
by the Spirit, or angel of the Lord.

At times the angels were sent on missions of punishment, as when Herod,
in the midst of his blasphemy, was smitten by God’s messenger, and gave
up the ghost.

These subjects are rich in artistic suggestion, and nearly all have been
represented in painting or sculpture. The book of the Revelation, too,
abounds in visions of angels, from the beginning, when an angel from
heaven “signified it” to John the Divine, to the end, when the angel
refused to be worshipped, and declared himself the fellow servant of
John, and of the prophets, and of all that keep the sayings of the




In whatever light one may regard the sacred legends of the early Church,
it is not possible to understand the representations of angels in Art
without some knowledge of these ancient traditions. One who knows
nothing of them, finds himself strangely puzzled and disconcerted,
before the almost numberless legendary subjects which he sees in
churches and galleries.

For example, if one knows nothing of the legend of St. Catherine of
Alexandria, how can he explain the picture of her mystic marriage to the
Infant Jesus, which typifies her renunciation of all earthly things,
and her complete dedication of herself to the service of Christ and his

St. Catherine is habitually represented with a wheel beside her. When
the wheel is whole, it is a symbol of the torture with which she was
threatened by the Emperor Maximin; when broken, it is a token of the
miracle by which she was saved from a horrible death.

During the many years that have passed since my first visit to the
gallery of the Louvre, I have retained a vivid remembrance of my
discontent before the beautiful picture of St. Margaret. The pleasure
that I should have taken in the lovely face and exquisite figure of the
saint, in the graceful drapery, and other details of this celebrated
picture, was utterly lost through my ignorance. I did not know why she
was standing on the frightful


dragon, with his horrible mouth wide open, and his terrible claw raised
as if to clutch the beautiful maiden.

As a consequence of this experience, I resolved to study the religious
symbolism of the early Christian Church, as I had already studied that
of the religion of the classic ages. How frequently now, as then, I meet
those who perfectly understand the significance of the head of Medusa,
or the lyre of Orpheus, who have no conception of the reason for the
representation of a church in the hand of St. Jerome, or of the serpent
in the chalice of St. John the Evangelist.

There are numerous pictures, in which angels are introduced, that are
founded on the Scripture story, but do not follow it strictly. Many
subjects are so suggestive of the presence of angels, that there is a
legitimate artistic license for introducing them into these scenes.

For example, the Scripture account of the ministration of angels to
Jesus, after the Temptation and after the Agony in the Garden, naturally
suggests their presence on other occasions of his suffering, and renders
their introduction quite permissible.

Thus, in the picture of Christ after the Flagellation, in the Monasterio
Maggiore in Milan, by Luini, which is full of the wonderful tenderness
of that master, there is no angel; while Velasquez, in his picture of
the same subject, which is in a private collection in England,
introduces such a presence.

So in the story of the Ecce Homo no angel is mentioned, and the usual
devotional picture represents the half figure of Christ, or the head
alone, wearing the crown of thorns. The historical picture portrays the
scene before Pilate, with a number of figures. Some artists, however,
have presented this subject differently, as in the picture by Moretto,
in the Museo Tosi in Brescia.

This shows the Saviour seated upon the steps of a building, probably
that in which was the “common hall,” in which the soldiers crowned him.
He still holds the reed sceptre, though his hands are bound; the cross
is on the ground before him, and his head is bowed upon his breast. On
the steps behind him, and a little above, stands a weeping angel,
holding the garment of Christ as if about to wrap it around him. The
expression in the convulsed face of the angel is remarkable. It is as if
he endeavored to restrain his tears, but could not. A much later picture
by Landelle, called the Angel of Tears, is similar to that of Moretto in
sentiment; in it a weeping angel kneels before a crown of thorns, his
tears falling over his cheeks.

Angels are also represented in pictures of the Crucifixion; in fact,
they were never absent in the earliest pictures of this subject,
although they were but few in number, and were extremely realistic in
their treatment, being precisely like ordinary men with wings added to
their shoulders. Later their number was largely increased, and they
became less human and extremely passionate in the expression of their
sorrow in beholding the agony of Jesus. Giotto and Cavallini introduce
an element of absurdity into this momentous scene, by representing
extremely human little angels as tearing open their plump little breasts
in their despair.

This extreme realism was sometimes carried to the extent of picturing
angels with chalices, catching the blood which flowed from the hands and
side of Jesus. In accordance with true symbolism, a female figure,
impersonating the Church, should hold the chalice to the side alone.

[Illustration: From a Copley Print, copyright, 1897, by Curtis and


Duccio da Siena, a generation earlier than Giotto, displayed a more
subtle perception, and grouped a numerous company of angels in a half
circle above the cross, in his famous picture of the Crucifixion, which
is one of the treasures of his native city. Two of them kiss the dead
hands; others cover their faces; some have thrown themselves down prone
upon the clouds; while still others, as if mindful of their duties as
messengers, are flying upwards to bear the news to the courts above.

In a few Crucifixions, in which the three crosses appear, angels are
receiving the soul of the penitent thief, while demons quarrel over that
of the unrepentant criminal. Unpleasant as this treatment is, it is the
logical result of the belief that a good or bad angel attended every
death, and bore the soul to St. Michael for judgment, as is depicted in
many ancient works of art. The spirits of the blessed are tenderly
carried skyward, but the translation of lost souls is attended with some
revolting details.

Gradually fewer angels were represented at the Crucifixion, and an
apparently unwritten law limited them to two or three with chalices;
indeed, for a time this scene was far less frequently pictured.

Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari, Lombard painters of the fifteenth century,
again portrayed so many angels, and such numberless little winged heads,
that the upper portions of their Crucifixions were alive with them.
These artists, with their refined tenderness of manner, created angels
that have rarely, if ever, been excelled in what may be termed a genuine
angelic quality. Especially is this true of Gaudenzio; the lamenting
angels above his Crucifixion, in the church at Varallo, are among the
most satisfactory representations of angels that occur in any picture
of this scene.

If the Resurrection of Christ is to be represented, the angel is
appropriately present; but as no account of the scene is given in the
Bible, and no one witnessed it, each artist who portrayed it was at
liberty to give his imagination full play in his work. For a long time
there were no pictures of this subject, its treatment being confined to
carvings in ivory, on shrines and other small objects. The greater
number of artists apparently esteemed it as too sacred, as well as too
tremendous, a subject to be adequately conceived and satisfactorily

So far as I can learn, the Resurrection was first painted by Giotto, as
one of a series of small pictures upon a press for the sacred vessels in
the Church of Santa Croce in Florence; it is now in the Academy of that
city. In this picture there is no angel. Fra Angelico represents the
Maries talking with the angel, while Christ is suspended in air above
them. By degrees the designs for this subject were modified, until, in
the picture in the Vatican which has been attributed to Perugino, the
rising Christ, bearing the banner of victory, is worshipped by two
angels. This work is now believed to be by Raphael, as his authenticated
studies for it are in the Oxford Collection.

Perhaps it is to be regretted that the illustration of this supremely
mystical subject was ever attempted in Art. I cannot imagine that any
existing picture of it should be seriously approved as a whole, although
certain figures or details may be sincerely admired.

The Ascension of Christ is another mystical subject, which was long
unattempted in a realistic portrayal of the scene as described in the
New Testament. Ancient ivories show Jesus as grasping the hand of God
extended to him through the clouds, and being thus drawn up from earth.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Scripture expression, “he
was taken up,” was given a literal meaning, and the figure of Jesus was
represented in the mandorla,--the oblong glory in which Christ, the
Virgin, or saints are represented when ascending to heaven,--which was
borne by angels to a certain height, when a cloud received him out of

As with the Resurrection so with the Ascension, Giotto was bold enough
to attempt representing the scene in accordance with the scriptural
description, and painted his idea of it on the walls of the Arena
Chapel, in Padua. In the centre of the lower part of the picture are two
angels, who, with raised hands, direct the attention of the kneeling
Virgin, and groups of Apostles, also kneeling, to Christ, already
soaring far above them, accompanied by numerous worshipping angels, who
are on both sides, at some distance apart from him.

This fresco is much injured, but is highly valued for the sublimity of
its composition. No angel aids Christ to rise. He is apparently able to
fulfil his own words, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will
draw all men unto me.”

Many pictures of the Ascension are seen in galleries, and it became a
favorite subject for the decoration of church vaults and cupolas,
especially in Greek churches. Correggio’s Ascension, in the Church of
San Giovanni, in Parma, is famous wherever Christian art is studied.
This master depicted numberless little angels flying here and there,
riding on clouds or mischievously peeping from behind them, chasing
each other as in some boisterous game, and by their levity and
frolicsomeness destroying all seriousness of effect, in spite of the
solemnity of the Evangelists and Reverend Fathers in the angles of the
vault below.

This picture must not, however, be taken as irreverent. Evidently
Correggio wished to convey the idea that the Ascension of Christ was an
occasion of joy to the angels, to whom his earthly pilgrimage and
sufferings had given a certain seriousness,--not sorrow, because angels
are happy, and not subject to human wants and weakness.

Now the great work was accomplished, and even the angels were rejoicing
that the Son should again resume his place at the right hand of the
Father, until the time when he should come again with glorious majesty
to judge both the quick and the dead.

One readily perceives how rich a field for the artistic imagination
these mystical subjects presented. But in a comprehensive study of them,
it is curious to note the effect upon works of Art of the dogmas of the
theologians, as they were promulgated from time to time. In some cases,
especially in Spain, rules were prescribed for the manner in which
religious subjects should be represented, and no artist dared depart
from them.

In the representations of angels, however, there was a larger liberty
than in the doctrinal subjects of religious art, and to this we owe the
possession of many precious works of sculptors and painters, which are
never outgrown, and of which we never weary.




The pictures of the Madonna, or Virgin Mary, may be divided into two
classes; the devotional, which illustrate the doctrines or teaching of
the early Church, and the historical, or the representation of the
actual scenes in the life of the Mother of Christ.

When the Virgin is represented wearing a crown or bearing a sceptre, and
attended by worshipping angels, she is in the character of the Queen of
Angels. The earlier examples of these pictures, as seen in the
Florentine Academy, and in the Churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa
Croce in Florence, are charming in their simplicity, and represent a
majestic and mystical womanhood, which entitles them to consideration as
works of Art. But later, especially in the seventeenth century, these
pictures degenerated into portraits of the self-conscious, unintelligent
prettiness of the models from whom they were painted. This subject was a
favorite one with certain decadent artists, and the contrast between the
most ancient and the later pictures of it, gives one a strong impression
of the lack of reverence or ideality in men who could thus represent
that holy woman, whose heart found expression in her beautiful hymn,
beginning, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” St. Luke i., 46. These
pictures have neither the humility, the intellectual power, nor the
sublime faith which the face of the Virgin Mary should express.

A favorite devotional picture was the


Coronation of the Virgin. This representation is an emblem of the Church
Triumphant, and is one of the most beautiful, as it was one of the most
approved, of the Middle Ages. It appeals to all hearts, since it
pictures the reunion of the Mother and Son in heaven, after their
separation by his death, and shows him no longer despised and rejected,
but reigning in the fullness of power, and exalting his mother above men
and angels, welcoming her to his throne, and placing a glorious crown
upon her head.

In the most ancient Coronations, which are very interesting, no angels
appear. From the time of Giotto,--the beginning of the fourteenth
century,--however, angels were witnesses of this scene. Fra Angelico’s
Coronation, in the Louvre, in which the Virgin kneels to be crowned, has
a group of musical angels on each side. One of the most interesting
pictures of this subject that I have seen is in the Academy of Venice,
by Vivarini, an artist of the island of Murano, who lived in the
fifteenth century.

It is a very large picture, having a throne in the centre, magnificently
ornamented and upheld by six pillars on a splendid pedestal. Christ and
the Virgin are seated on the throne, he already crowned, and engaged in
placing the crown on the head of Mary. The celestial dove hovers between
them, and the Heavenly Father appears above, and rests a hand on the
shoulder of each. Above are nine choirs of angels; nearest are the
glowing seraphim and cherubim having wings but otherwise so indistinct
as to be formless; above these are thrones, holding the globe of
sovereignty; to the right are dominations, virtues, powers, and to the
left princedoms, archangels, and angels. In the lower portion of the
same picture are prophets and Patriarchs with the Hebrew Scriptures, the
Apostles with the Gospel, saints and martyrs, virgins and holy women,
lovely children bearing the cross, nails, spear, and crown of thorns,
and the Evangelists and Fathers of the Church. There are at least
seventy heads in this picture without the angels; the children are
beautiful, and all are finished with great delicacy and care. It is an
invaluable example of symbolic art, as well as an exponent of an entire
system of theology.

The Coronation was often a most splendid picture, as it warranted the
use of magnificent draperies and other accessories. It was also a joyous
picture. Every figure introduced had an air of happiness, and the angels
were especially glad.

In the picture known as the Mother of Mercy, the Virgin is often
attended by angels. In ancient pictures and bas-reliefs of this
subject, she was frequently standing and wearing a long, full cloak,
like that of St. Ursula, which was held aside by two angels, thus
disclosing groups of kneeling suppliants, praying to her for mercy.

Very often in this picture the Virgin holds the Infant Jesus in her
arms. In other fine examples,--notably in the masterpiece of Fra
Bartolommeo, in the Church of St. Romano, in Lucca,--the figure of
Christ surrounded by angels is seen in the clouds, as if he aided in
these works of compassion. Such pictures are numerous in hospitals and
charitable institutions, especially in those that are in the care of the
Order of Mercy, where they are singularly appropriate. A bas-relief
above the entrance to the Scuola della Caritas, in Venice, is a fine
example of this subject.

Pictures of the so-called Pietà, represent the Virgin holding the body
of the dead Christ on her knees. The greatest artists whose works are
known to us have represented this subject in sculpture and painting.
When it is a strictly devotional work, the Virgin, the Christ, and
mourning angels are the only figures admissible. There are many examples
in which there are no angels, the Mother being alone with the dead

The Pietà by Francia, in the National Gallery, is very beautiful in
sentiment, and in execution is full of the tenderness of this master.
The Christ is supported by two angels, and the Virgin, with an
expression of anguish, seems to look at the beholder as if beseeching

In the sublimely pathetic marble group, by Michael Angelo, in a chapel
of the Vatican, there are no angels, but we have engravings of another
Pietà by this master, in which the Virgin sits at the foot of the
cross, her eyes raised and her arms extended towards heaven, while two
angels support the Christ, seated lower down, and leaning against the
knees of the Virgin. According to the custom of Michael Angelo, these
angels have no wings, but their expression is such as would make it
impossible to mistake them for earthly children.

There were no pictures of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary
until the seventeenth century, when Spanish and Italian artists vied
with each other in representing this subject, and these works may be
said to abound in angels.

When the Virgin stands on the moon with full sunlight surrounding her,
and wearing the crown of twelve stars, she is the personification of the
woman described in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation.


The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin was much in favor
with the Spanish Church before its confirmation by the bull of Pope Paul
V. in 1617, which was welcomed in Seville, not only by the most solemn
religious services, but also by the booming of cannon, and the
celebration of bull-fights, tournaments, and banquets. Spain and all its
colonies were placed under the protection of the Immaculate Conception.
Even now, almost three centuries after this event, it is not unusual for
Spaniards to use the salute, “Ave Maria purissima!” the response being,
“Sin peccado concepida!”

Not long after the publication of the bull, Pacheco laid down rules for
the representation of this subject in Art, which have been
conscientiously followed. The Virgin is very young, her hair golden, her
robe white, and her mantle blue. The angels near her bear roses,
lilies, and palms. She stands on the moon, wears the starry crown, and
the vanquished dragon is beneath her. As the Franciscans were always
enthusiastically devoted to this dogma, it was usual to represent the
girdle of the Virgin by the cord of the Franciscans.

Murillo, the painter of this subject _par excellence_, was not strictly
bound by Pacheco’s rules. He adhered to the colors prescribed for the
drapery; he varied the tint of the hair, and often was not careful to
represent the cord of St. Francis. He never omitted the moon, but it was
sometimes full rather than in the crescent, and he pointed the horns
upward, while Pacheco directed them to point downward; and he usually
omitted the starry crown. But so satisfactory were Murillo’s Immaculate
Conceptions that he was never accused of being unorthodox.


Other pictures of the Madonna, by this great Spanish master, are wanting
in the characteristics which he invariably gives the Virgin in this
subject. Others are commonplace, and might be duplicated among Spanish
peasant women; but the Virgin of his Conceptions are ideal. Spotlessly
pure, full of grace and repose, exquisite in refinement and delicacy,
her hands folded on her breast, and her sweetly serious eyes raised as
in prayer, she seems a fitting companion to the angels about her, but
all unsuited to the sufferings of the life before her.

Murillo painted this picture twenty-five times, and no two of these
works are exactly the same, although the differences are sometimes
slight. The angels are so numerous that they seem to fill all space, and
to be coming forward in still greater numbers out of the depths of the
sky. If the dragon is there, he is concealed by these lovely, spiritual
attendants on the queen of their order.

Guido Reni painted several pictures of this subject which was well
suited to the master of the Aurora, and afforded full play to his ideal
of beauty, and his delicacy of execution.

But it was in the Spanish school that these pictures were multiplied,
and this is not strange when we remember that every candidate admitted
to the academy of painting in Seville was required to declare his full
belief in “the most pure conception of Our Lady.”

Mr. Stirling, in his handbook of Spain, speaks of a Conception by
Roelas, painted before the time of Murillo, which he calls “equal to
Guido.” Velasquez also painted a fine Conception, probably before the
rules of Pacheco were known, as the Virgin’s robe is violet, and she has
no unusual beauty. It is, however, a solemn and remarkable work in the
bold, early style of this great artist.

In the ancient pictures of the Enthroned Madonna there are always
attendant angels; in some later works they are omitted. In this subject
the Madonna holds the Infant Jesus on her lap, and is surrounded by
angels. The earliest Enthroned Madonnas represent the Virgin seated
between the Archangels St. Michael and St. Gabriel, as symbolic of life
and death. This representation dates from the eighth century in the
carved ivories of the Greek Church, and was repeated in sculpture and
glass painting during six or seven hundred years.

Later St. Gabriel appears in the Annunciation only, but as St. Michael
was the guardian of Jesus and his mother in their earthly life, he is
often beside them, as well as St. Raphael, the guardian spirit of all
human beings. Perugino presents both these guardian archangels in his
lovely picture in the National Gallery.

This is one of the rare examples in which the three archangels are seen
together, each with his appropriate symbol.

In the usual picture of this subject the Madonna is literally enthroned,
her throne being rich and decorative. Raphael, however, placed her on
the clouds, the child standing beside her, and the angels below, rather
than above them. This might be called the Madonna in Glory, although she
is seated on the clouds as on a throne.

Angels were represented as attendant upon the Virgin very early in the
history of Art. Even the ancient mosaics of Ravenna show them about her
throne, and as her office of Queen of Angels


came to be more and more considered, angels were represented as adoring
her, sustaining her throne, and performing a variety of services, the
most charming being that of the musical angels.

When Art reached the height of the fifteenth century, the angelic
choristers were exquisite in beauty and in sentiment, as they knelt or
stood near the Virgin, or sat upon the steps of her throne, playing upon
lute and pipe, or singing as only angels can.

There are so-called half-length Enthroned Madonnas, in which the Virgin
and Child and angels alone appear. Occasionally the Infant St. John the
Baptist is introduced in these pictures, as in the illustration here
given, after Botticelli.

The picture known as the Mater Amabilis, in which the Madonna caresses
the Child, or tenderly gazes at him, rarely has the angelic attendants,
but Gian Bellini filled the background of such a picture with winged
cherub heads.

There are two classes of pictures of the Madonna and Child, in which the
little St. John Baptist is present. When St. John adores Jesus, kisses
his feet, or in any way seems to recognize his superiority, it is a
purely devotional picture, while a great number of others are simply
domestic, friendly scenes. In all of these angels appear in varying

An exquisite picture, by Filippino Lippi, shows the kneeling Virgin
adoring the Child, who rests on the ground, while near by the little St.
John also kneels. The group is surrounded by five angels, one of whom
scatters roses over the Infant, while the others worship him with folded

Among the historical and legendary subjects illustrative of the life of
the Virgin, are those connected with her parents, Joachim and Anna, her
Nativity and Presentation in the Temple, and her life there,--her
Marriage and all the scenes preceding the Annunciation. Of the latter I
have written in connection with the Angel Gabriel. Many of these
pictures are very beautiful, and angels are frequently introduced in

After the Annunciation follows the Visitation, or the Salutation of
Elizabeth. I know of but one fine picture of this scene--by
Pinturicchio--in which angels are present at the meeting of the Holy
Women. It is a poetic conception, and the humility of the two angels,
with downcast eyes and folded hands, gives them the appearance of
attendants on the journey of the Virgin, rather than that of witnesses
of the Salutation.

The Nativity of Christ, the Adoration of the Shepherds, and the
Adoration of the Magi--Wise Men--have been represented in a variety of
ways, and are subjects easily distinguished. The first two are most
effective when treated with perfect simplicity, with no accessories
unsuited to the humble condition of Joseph and Mary and the Shepherds;
with such scenes the presence of the angels is in perfect harmony. The
Nativity by Albertinelli, in the Uffizi Gallery, and the Adoration of
the Shepherds by Correggio, in the Dresden gallery, are fine examples of
these subjects.

The Adoration of the Magi, or Kings, as the legends call them, admits of
all the splendor that an artist desires to depict. Many pictures of this
scene display magnificent collections of vases, ewers, and other vessels
of gold and silver, while the costumes, jewelled diadems, and chains of
the Kings, are as gorgeous in texture and color as Veronese, Rubens,
Rembrandt, and other artists could make them. Veronese perhaps excelled
all others in making his Adoration of the Kings, in the Dresden gallery,
an imposing and gorgeous pageant.

Angels are by no means a necessary part of this scene, but are always
present in the earliest representations of it. A poetic element is
imparted to this picture when the angelic announcement of the birth of
Jesus to the Shepherds is introduced in the background; or when the star
which directed the Magi in their course appears in the sky, surrounded
by angel heads.

In representations of the Flight into Egypt, which Joseph had been
directed to make, by an angel in a dream, these heavenly attendants are
seen bringing fruits and flowers to the travellers, pitching their
tents, leading the ass on which the Virgin rides, watching over them by
night, and serving them by day.

So in the Repose in Egypt,--one of the most charming of these kindred
subjects,--the attendant angels are a delightful feature, and so varied
are their occupations, and so fanciful the conceits of the painters of
this scene, that many pages might be devoted to a description of them.
For example, Van Dyck, in his picture in the Ashburton collection, has
represented the Virgin seated under a spreading tree, holding the Child,
while a number of angels dance in a round to the music made by other
angels in the clouds above.

Lucas Cranach shows the angels washing linen; Albert Dürer represents
St. Joseph as shaping a piece of wood with his axe; some of the many
angels present gather up the chips and put them in baskets; others dance
and frolic merrily


about the group, while still other more serious angels,--probably
guardian spirits,--devoutly folding their hands, stand or kneel around
the cradle of the Infant Jesus.

Titian, in one of his pictures of this subject, introduced a little
angel who waters the ass in a stream. Rembrandt gives his Repose the air
of a gipsy camp, which is emphasized by the fact that the only light
comes from a lantern hung on a tree. I do not know who painted a Repose
that I have seen, to which a very human feeling is imparted by St.
Joseph; he is shaking his fist at the ass, which has opened its mouth to

In the almost numberless representations of the Madonna and Child, and
of the Holy Family, angels are frequently introduced. These subjects are
so easily recognized, and, speaking generally, are so simply treated as
to require no comment here.

I have referred to the legend that an angel announced the approach of
death to the Virgin Mary, and have explained the difference between the
symbolism of this subject, and that of the Annunciation of the birth of
Jesus, all of which is made clear by our illustration.

In pictures of the death scene there are always angels present, in
greater or lesser numbers. In the representations of the Assumption of
the Virgin she is sometimes borne upward by angels, and again she
ascends without aid. In all cases she is attended by choirs of angels,
as in the magnificent Assumption by Titian, which is the pride of the
Academy in Venice.

In the purely devotional Assumptions such as that sculptured above the
portal of the Cathedral of Florence,--the Santa Maria del Fiore,--the
Virgin is within the mandorla, or almond-shaped aureole. She is clothed
in white and wears a veil


and crown; her hands are joined and she ascends in a glory of light,
surrounded by angels. The only special difference in these sculptures is
the position of the Virgin, who sometimes sits, and again stands
upright, in the mandorla. When the representation corresponds to this,
except that the Virgin has no crown, it may more properly be called the
Glorification of the Virgin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Besides the representations of angels who make a part of the devotional
and historical scenes in the lives of Christ and the Virgin, of the
Evangelists, Apostles, and Fathers of the Church, there are a great
number that illustrate the legends of the saints. For example, that of
St. Cecilia, whose music charmed even the angelic choirs, so that the
angels brought to her the roses of Paradise, is one of the most

After the death of St. Catherine of Alexandria, angels bore her body to
the top of Mount Sinai, as represented in our illustration by Mücke.

When St. Christina was beaten and thrown into a dungeon, angels bound up
her wounds, and St. Agatha was comforted by them in her prison.

These are a few examples of the numerous appearances of angels in the
legends of the saints.

Perhaps there are no artistic representations that appeal to a greater
number of people, of all possible types, than do those of angels, in
both sculpture and painting. One reason for this seems to me to be that
angels represent our highest ideal of created beings,--beings that we
can only realize through the power of imagination, either our own
imagination or that of another. It may be that of a writer, who, in a
vivid word-picture, conjures up before us a vision of beings that we
have not seen, as do Dante and Milton. Or it may be a sculptor or
painter who, rendering his own ideal, helps us to see with his eyes and
to accept or reject his work as it appeals to, or repels us.

This recalls the words of Ruskin when he says that the noblest use of
imagination is to “enable us to bring sensibly to our sight the things
which are recorded as belonging to our future state, or as invisibly
surrounding us in this. It is given us, that we may imagine the cloud of
witnesses in heaven and earth, and see, as if they were now present, the
souls of the righteous waiting for us; that we may conceive the great
army of the inhabitants of heaven, and discover among them those whom we
most desire to be with forever; that we may be able to vision forth the
ministry of angels beside us, and see the chariots of fire on the
mountains that gird us round; but, above all, to call up the scenes and
facts in which we are commanded to believe, and be present, as if in the
body, at every recorded event of the history of the Redeemer.”

With such a thought in mind, it is well worth while to study the various
types of angels which are a rich portion of the legacies of the artists
to the world. It is surely right to attempt to imagine the glories of a
sphere beyond this,--a heaven of purity and glory. One of the most
powerful aids to this imagination is the contemplation of religious
pictures, especially those that were executed with such reverence and
sincerity as make them appear to reproduce actual scenes, and, for the
time, carry us out of ourselves and into the imaginary earth and heaven
of the master whose works we study.

Thus we may leave this brief review of the subject of Angels in Art,
feeling that its further development by each reader for himself is a
pursuit in harmony with St. Paul’s admonition: “Whatsoever things are
pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
these things.”




Abraham, 50.

Academy of Florence, 125, 215.

Acts of the Holy Angels, The, 130.

Adoration of the Magi, The, 248.

Adoration of the Shepherds, The, 248.

Agatha, St., 258.

Agony; in Gethsemane, Pictures of the, 186, 187, 208.

Albani, Francesco, 39, 178.

Albertinelli, 248.

Allori, Alessandro, 98.

Almasio, Lippo d’, 185.

Ambrose, Hymn of St., 17.

Andrea del Sarto, 110, 159.

Angel Wings, 19-25.

Angels, Orders of, 15-19.

Angelic Drapery, 32.

Angelico, Fra, 36, 59, 99, 100, 103, 150, 151, 198, 199, 216, 227.

Angelo, Castle of Sant’, 77.

Annunciation, The, 86-104.

Archangels, Office of the, 18.

Arena Chapel, Padua, 217.

Arezzo, Spinello d’, 66.

Ascension of Christ, Pictures of the, 216-220.

Ashburton Collection, The, 250.

Assumption of the Virgin, Pictures of the, 70, 149, 254.

Aubert, St., 78.

Avanzi, Jacopo, 185.

Avranches, Normandy, 78.


Babylon, 25.

“Bannerer of Heaven,” 55.

Baptism of Christ, Pictures of the, 178.

Bartolommeo, Fra, 230.

Bel and the Dragon, Story of, 76.

Bellini, Gian, 150, 246.

Belvedere, The, Vienna, 110, 163, 177.

Benozzo, Gozzoli, 39.

Biliverti, Giovanni, 119.

“Bird of God,” 45.

Blake, William, 167.

Botticelli, Sandro, 125, 151, 245.

Brera, The, 163.

Brescia, Museo Tosi, 209.

Burne-Jones, Sir Edward, 190.


Campo Santo, The, Pisa, 23, 192, 199.

Caracci, Annibale, 191.

  “  Ludovico, 185.

  “  The, 39.

Carotto, Pictures by, 120-125.

Catherine of Alexandria, St., 73, 203, 258.

Cavallini, 210.

Cecilia, St., 257.

Chaldeans, The, 13, 52.

Chamuel, 49.

Cherubim, The, 16-19.

Choirs of Angels, The Nine, 16.

Choristers, Angelic, 17.

Christina, St., 258.

Comforting of Elijah, The, 166, 167.

Conca, Sebastian, 185.

Coronation of the Virgin, Pictures of the, 28, 227-229.

Correggio, 39, 218, 219, 248.

Cortona, Cathedral of, 57.

  “  Pietro da, 163.

Councillors, Angelic, 17.

Cranach, Lucas, 250.

Credi, Lorenzo di, 179.

Crucifixion, Pictures of the, 210-214.

Cyrus, King, 76.


Dante, 17, 41, 45, 87, 130, 259.

Della Robbia, 150.

Dionysius the Areopagite, 16, 17.

Dominations, 17.

Drapery of Angels, 32.

Dream of Joseph, Picture of the, 177.

Dresden Gallery, 27, 159, 248, 249.

Duccio da Siena, 191, 218.

Dulwich Gallery, 166.

Dürer, Albert, 189, 250.


Ecce Homo, Pictures of, 208, 209.

Egypt, 25.

Enthroned Madonna, Pictures of the, 241-245.

Ercolani, Count, 168.

Escurial, The, 128.

Etruria, 25.

Expulsion of Heliodorus, The, 40.


Ferrari, Gaudenzio, 214.

Flight into Egypt, The, 249.

Florence, Academy of, 59, 149, 199, 223.

Florence, Cathedral of, 254.

Florentine Academy, The, 81, 88, 99.

Fontainebleau, 60.

Four Beasts, The, 170, 171.

Francia, 231.

Francis I., 60.


Gabriel, 48.

Galgano, Monte, 78.

Garden of Eden, 49.

Gaudenzio Ferrari, 214.

Ghiberti, 149.

Ghirlandajo, 150.

Giorgio, Church of San, Bologna, 185.

Giotto, 35, 39, 210, 213, 215, 217, 227.

Giovanni, Church of San, Padua, 218.

Glorification of the Virgin, Pictures of the, 70.

Glory of Angels, A, 25.

Gnostics, The, 52.

Governors, Angelic, 17.

Granacci, Francesco, 151.

Great Litanies, The, 77.

Gregorio, Church of San, Rome, 70.

Guercino, 163.

Guido Reni, 39, 62, 65, 156, 240.


Habakkuk, The Prophet, 76, 77.

Hadrian, Mausoleum of, 77.

Heliodorus, The Expulsion of, 40.

Hemshirk, 77.

Henry VII., Tomb of, 73.

Hermitage, The, 160, 165, 191.

Hierarchies of Angels, 16-19.

Holy Family, Pictures of the, 253.

Hymn of St. Ambrose, 17.


Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Pictures of the, 232-240.


Jameson, Mrs., 24, 68, 167.

John of Thessalonica, 139.

Jophiel, 49.


Landelle, 209.

Last Judgment, Pictures of the, 73, 151, 191-199.

Leonardo, 39, 69, 121.

Lily, Symbolism of the, 94.

Lippi, Filippino, 246.

  “  Fra Filippo, 88, 99.

Litanies, The Great, 77.

Liturgy of Angels, A, 34.

Loggie of the Vatican, The, 134, 165.

Lord of Souls, The, 68, 70, 83, 121.

Lorenzo dei Medici, 60.

Louis, St., 78.

Louvre, The, 60, 129, 202, 227.

Lucca, Church of St. Romano, 230.

Lucifer, 55, 57, 58, 66, 85.

Luini, 208, 214.


Madonna, Pictures of the, 223.

  “  del Pesce, 125-129.

  “  di Fuligno, 129.

  “  di San Sisto, 27, 127, 129.

Madonna in Glory, The, 242.

Madrid Gallery or Museum, 125, 129, 159.

Mantegna, 120, 189.

Marco, Covenant of San, 100.

Maria Maggiore, Church of Santa, 91.

Marziale, Church of St., 125.

Mater Amabilis, The, 245.

Maximin, The Emperor, 204.

Medina, Duke of, 128.

Melozzo da Forli, 150.

Mengs, Anton Raphael, 177.

Messengers, Angelic, 17.

Michael, St., 48, 156, 199, 213, 241.

Michael Angelo, 39, 199, 231, 232.

Michael, Mount Saint, 78.

Milan, The Brera, 163.

  “  Monasterio Maggiore, 208.

Milton, 20, 27, 104, 105, 119, 131, 132, 140, 259.

Ministers, Angelic, 17.

Monasterio Maggiore, Milan, 208.

Monreale, Cathedral of, 133.

Moretto, 209.

Moses, The Prophet, 75.

Mother of Mercy, The, 229.

Mücke, 258.

Murillo, 164, 165, 183, 184, 236-239.

Museo Tosi, Brescia, 209.


Naples, Church of San Dominico Maggiore, 128.

National Gallery, London, 231, 242.

Nativity of Christ, Pictures of the, 247.

Nineveh, 25, 115.

Noah, 49.


Orcagna, 23, 192, 198, 199.

Orders of Angels, 15-19.

Orvieto, Cathedral of, 199.

Oxford Collection, The, 216.


Pacheco, 235, 240.

Palma, 150.

Passavant, 126.

Paul, Words of St., 74, 263.

  “ V., Pope, 235.

Perugino, 28, 149, 178, 180, 216, 242.

Petersburg, St., 160, 191.

Philip IV., of Spain, 128.

Pietà, The, 51, 231.

Pinturicchio, 247.

Pisa, Campo Santo, 192.

  “  Cathedral of, 160.

Pitti Gallery, The, 119, 168.

Pool of Bethesda, Pictures of, 183-185.

Potter, Paul, 167.

Powers, The, 17, 25.

Princedoms, Angelic, 18, 25.


Queen of Angels, 93, 223, 242.

Queen of Heaven, 93.


Raphael, 24, 27, 40, 60, 62, 93, 125, 134, 150, 156,
     164, 165, 168, 169, 178, 179, 216, 242.

Ravenna, Mosaics of, 242.

Rembrandt, 41, 129, 159, 164, 166, 189, 249, 253.

Reni, Guido, 39, 62, 65, 156, 240.

Repose in Egypt, The, 250, 251.

Resurrection of Christ, Pictures of, 215.

Richard of Normandy, 78.

Romano, Church of St., 230.

Rubens, 66, 163, 167, 178, 249.

Ruskin, Mr., 42, 259.


Sala del Incendio, The, 180.

Santa Croce, Church of, Florence, 215, 223.

Santa Maria Novella, Church of, 51, 223.

Santa Maria della Salute, Church of, Venice, 160.

Sarto, Andrea del, 110, 159.

Scheffer, Ary, 180, 189.

Schoen, Martin, 65.

Scuola della Caritas, Venice, 230.

Seraphim, The, 16-19.

Seville, 235.

Shakespeare, 155.

Signorelli, 69, 75, 199.

Sinai, Mount, 73, 75.

Sistine Chapel, The, 75, 199.

Sodoma, Il, 160.

Soult, Marshal, 184.

Spenser, 14.

Stanza della Signatura, 40.

Stirling, Handbook of Spain, 240.

Symbols of Angels, 19.


Taddeo Gaddi, 51.

Temptation of Christ, Pictures of the, 179-183, 208.

Thomas Aquinas, St., 51.

Thrones, Angelic, 18.

Tintoretto, 178.

Titian, 39, 125, 160, 253, 254.

Tobias, 49, 107-127.

Tree of Knowledge, 49.


Uffizi Gallery, 248.

Uriel, 49, 132.

Ursula, St., 230.


Van Dyck, 250.

Varallo, Church at, 214.

Vatican, The, 24, 40, 164, 165, 180, 216, 231.

Velasquez, 208, 240.

Venice, 125, 160, 230.

  “  Academy of, 228, 254.

Verona, Church of St. Euphemia, 120.

Veronese, Paul, 178, 189, 249.

Verrocchio, 178, 179.

Vienna, Belvedere Gallery, 110, 163, 177.

Vinci, Leonardo da, 69.

Virtues, Angelic, 17.

Visit of Women to the Sepulchre of Christ, Pictures of the, 190, 191.

Vision of Ezekiel, The, 168, 170.

Visitation, Pictures of the, 247.

Vivarini, 150, 228.


Westminster Abbey, 73.

William the Conqueror, 78.

Wings, Angel, 19-25.


Zadkiel, 50.

Zoroaster, 13.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Angels in Art" ***

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