Throughout history, man has been fascinated with the concept of angels, which some religions believe are God's winged messengers. The Bible often spoke of angels, including this notable verse from the book of John, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." This fascination has been honoured and appreciated through works of art. Several works of art depicting religious angels are known around the world.
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St. Joseph's Dream
In the New Testament, Joseph, Jesus' father, is visited by the angel Gabriel in a dream. Gabriel tells Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem, and that her son is the child of God. The story is renowned for the faith the angel instils in Joseph. This story is depicted in several paintings, one of the more famous by Philippe de Champaigne in 1642. Noticeable in the painting are Joseph's carpenter tools and his sandals. Champaigne painted brightly, as this oil was designed for a dim chapel. It currently resides in the National Gallery in London.
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The Last Judgment
While the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is most famous for the portion of the painting where God touches Adam's finger, the altar wall is actually a large fresco painting known as The Last Judgment. The scape features more than 40 angels, several of whom do not have wings. Angels in religious works of art were often depicted without wings as they were seen as messengers, separate from the seraphim and cherubs. The painting is often thought of as daunting, and is meant to evoke respect and fear of God.
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Catholic artists placed a heavy emphasis on the Madonna in angel paintings. The Immaculate Conception is one such example. Housed in the Prado in Madrid, Spain, the Immaculate Conception was created by Bartolome Murillo and is noteworthy for its soft, fluid colours. Mary is glancing upward to hear the word of God, that she is to bear is son, and the cherubs are supporting her below. Cherubs are often depicted in paintings as childlike and soft. The Immaculate Conception, depicting Mary and the angels, became a trend in iconography across Europe in the 17th century.
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Sacrifice of Isaac
The Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt depicts a famous story in the book of Genesis, where Abraham is told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Just as he is about to slay Isaac, an angel messenger comes down and stops Abraham. Rembrandt's goal was to capture the dark drama of the moment Abraham is stopped. The painting is noteworthy for its well articulated facial expressions and movement. The painting is from the 1630s and resides in the Hermitage Museum in Russia.