The oldest extant representation of an angel in Christian art is an image of the Archangel Gabriel in a second-century fresco of the Annunciation found in Catacomb of St. Priscilla, where many early Christians were buried. Christians have been depicting angels in artwork ever since. The images vary wildly according to time and place. Observe these images of Gabriel across the centuries.
This image of the Archangel Gabriel comes from a fifth-century eastern European monastic fresco.
This 5th-century image of the Annunciation comes from Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (432-440)in Rome and has the earliest extant image of winged angels in Christian art.
This image of Gabriel in Jan Van Eyck’s Annunciation comes from the Netherlands in the 15th-century and gives Gabriel deacon’s vestments.
This seventeenth-century depiction of Gabriel’s Annunciation to Zechariah comes from an Ethiopian Bible.
The artists’ choices about how to depict Gabriel vary according to time and place, fashion (if you look carefully above, you can see that winged angels from the fifth-century Roman church are wearing togas), artistic convention, the artists’ style, and the idea the artist is trying to convey with the artwork. Expand that series of choices across all the various angels of scripture — what they are doing, what their varying purposes in the stories, etc. — and you have a rich variety of thousands of different angels portrayed in artwork spanning almost two thousand years.
In this course, Scott discusses angels in scripture as interpreted by artists across history. In the first lesson, he discusses angels as messengers and art as a way of conveying divine messages that reason cannot comprehend. In the second lesson, he discusses angels as proclamations — as God’s messages and messengers to humanity, and artists’ imitating God in creating angelic figures in their works. In the third lesson, Scott talks about angels as warnings, especially St. Michael, and in the fourth lesson, he talks about the rich history of celebratory angels in Christian art.
This class is ideal for anyone interested in angels, the history of Christian art, and ways in which God communicates with humanity. For a preview, please click here.