Saturday, April 28, 2007

Book Review: Angels



A brief, selective art history on angels.

Angels: National Gallery Pocket Guide by Erika Langmuir. National Gallery Publications, London: 2002. 80 pages. Illustrated. ISBN: 0-300-07923-0.

I picked this up on impulse at a nearby college library while researching an unrelated topic. It's a discussion, copiously illustrated, of angels in paintings in the National Gallery of Britain.

It's an easy read, respectfully written, giving a brief history of angels in Christian thought and artwork. It explains some of those questions you may have asked, such as, "Why do cherubs appear in paintings as babies?"

Well, according to Langmuir, this phenomenon appears in the fifteenth century and probably derives from images of Cupid with Hermes. Langmuir discusses a number of other interesting angel/art-related subjects as well. The traditional nine-tiered hierarchy of angels, for example, comes from a few phenomena related to the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, a New Testament passage or two, and pseudo-Dionysius. I'd wondered about that.

Paintings illustrated in the guide, in full color, include works by Botticelli, Corregio, and Rembrandt. If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon to spend, you could spend it worse than by looking over Angels.
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