Baroque angels

Posted On January 9, 2016 at 11:39 am by / No Comments

These angel statues were widely used on Baroque winged altars as supporting figures, e.g.

they appear holding the altar in its place. Of course due to this, they were used symmetrically.

Two main types can be seen: putto/cherub and “grown up” angels. These are definitely the

latter. To ensure the ethereal appearance, these figures were often depicted in a moving, flying

position, and were supported by ornaments bearing their weight.


Baroque altars

Baroque altars are usually richly decorated, painted and gilt wooden structures, often with

additional columns. Of course, their centerpiece was/were the altar picture(s), but the

ornaments also enjoyed great importance.

Dating the angels

Unfortunately it’s not always simple to date such sculptures, as the baroque art was a long-

lived trend of style. However, there are a few indicating marks. At first glance the carvings

appear to be late 17th-early 18th century ones. It’s important to note though, that due to the

counter-reformation of the Catholic Church, even small churches were presented with high

quality carvings. This rococo altar (mid 18th C.) is a great example, Petőfalva is a small

Hungarian village and yet got this altar. This is among the reasons why it can prove

complicated to locate a baroque-rococo artwork’s origin.

When we take a look at Bernini’s works, we have to compare the features of his statues.

Bernini’s angels are hallmarked by their detailed depiction. One of the most interesting of

them are the wings, even the spine of the feathers can be observed. This is indirectly

comparable to the realistic reliefs and statues of the gothic era, but the “Smiling Angel” of

Reims (mid 13th C.) is not as detailed. Furthermore, the baroque era’s wooden sculptures

were often painted to create a more lifelike appearance. The “post-Berninian” sculptures tried

to have a more ethereal appearance, giving the illusion of floating, especially with the much

lighter wood.

As the Spanish crown kept a good portion of Italy under its influence or even direct

occupation during the 17th-18th C., it’s not a great surprise that their art, especially religious

art bears several resemblances. Compared to this late 17th C. wooden statue of Christ, the

resemblance is striking. Not only the style how the hair is finished, but the pose, facial

expression and facial features are similar. Although Christ’s chest is bare on the statue, the

female angels are covered – although in a similar manner -, that also strengthens the Italian-

Spanish school of art, as in Spain, more “decency” was desirable in religious depictions,

unlike on several rococo carvings, like this one with half-naked angels in Szentkut, Hungary.

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