It was scarcely satisfactory. Artists wanted to distinguish the heavenly messengers from the other young male figures such as the disciples of Jesus and Jesus himself. Greek and Roman Christian poets, elaborating on the Gospel stories, introduced traditional classical imagery. Thus, the good Paulinus of Nola, after describing the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zacharias, concludes with something that is not in the scriptures: “he spoke and glided on wings into thin air.” Hence, the floating corporeal form was established. Mystics and divines reflected on the strange powers given by the Almighty to his envoys- their sudden appearances and disappearances, their rapid movement, their ubiquity, and concluded that,although human in form, they must be superhuman both in their beauty and in their power of flight.
The Christian spirit, beginning in the fourth century, began to gush into the dry pagan channels. Then began pagan philosophical ideas, aesthetic patterns, imaginative symbols, and social and religious customs taken over by Christianity, rededicated and without destruction, transformed. The angels of Jewish and Christian scripture took on the wings, the grace, and the spiritual intensity of Graeco-Roman spirits and demigods.
The image of Victory had always accompanied the Roman emperors. When they too, became Christians, she did not leave them. In Churches, the winged Victories now appeared, carrying the palms of triumph, as the jews did when they greeted Christ at his entry into Jerusalem. As the wealth and vigor of Greek rhetoric and Roman poetry were put to the service of the new religion, so the messengers, the guardians, and the heavenly visitors of Graeco-Roman paganism gave their flight, their dignity, and their charm to the angels of Christian art and literature.
Much was taken, but much was rejected. In particular, pagan sensuality was utterly rejected. Eros and the Genius were male and naked. Victory was female and lightly clad. When Victory entered the Church, she might still soar, but she was decorously clothed; and all the angels were masculine, grave of aspect, and fully clad. For the early Christians, the beauty of the body was a snare and a delusion if it was not the outward semblance, and the only semblance, of spiritual holiness.
Falling from grace, they have lost their angelic natures and turned into a menagerie of yucky, hybrid critters and beasties. Bizarre, absurd, unpleasant things, they seem neither powerfully dangerous nor dee
evil. They are essentially ridiculous. It is a most unromantic embodiment of sin. Who could be tempted by a devil half-made of seafood?
They plunge in a fizzing swarm, like anti-moths, away from the disc of divine light. They spread out to fill the whole lower half of the picture in a dense and chaotic throng. At the bottom right corner they’re being sucked down a fiery plughole to hell….
…Bruegel presents these devils as a domestic nuisance, an infestation. The “war in heaven” is a hygiene operation. The task of St Michael, the skinny golden knight, and his fellow loyal angels in white robes, is the kind of disgusting, necessary job that might confront any countryman or town dweller – getting rid of a plague of vermin, beating the things out, driving them away.
But the story isn’t straightforward. Bruegel is an artist who believes in multitudes and masses more than individual figures. This seething infestation of devils is pictorially more than a match for the handful of squeamish-looking beaters with their tiny shields held at arm’s length. It’s full of energy, and imaginative energy, too.
What an eyeful! It’s an extraordinary miscellany, made of scattered bits of the world – sea creatures, butterflies, poultry, armoured knights, tentacles, tails, eggs and fruit. You can pick out an inflated puffer fish, a sycamore seed, a mushroom cup, a skeleton.
It’s natural to think of an earlier artist, Hieronymus Bosch. His work was clearly an inspiration to Bruegel. But the similarity holds a big difference. It’s the difference between two kinds of fantasy art. One is devoted to sheer invention. The other brings its inventions to life.Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/bruegel-pieter-the-fall-of-the-rebel-angels-1562-897006.html