From Victories to angels

With the advent of Christianity came God’s messengers, the angels.

  1. Angels came down from heaven to announce God’s will to mankind, holding the globe and cross representing his power and glory.

    The Archangel Gabriel, 6th–7th century AD, Palagia Aggeloktisti monastery, Kitio (Cyprus)

  2. Winged like the ancient Victory, angels were dressed in male garments typical of the late Roman Empire: a long, wide-sleeved tunic covered with a cloak draped diagonally over the chest or drawn back over the shoulders.

    Mosaic, 1291, Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

  3. In the late Middle Ages, angels began to be depicted in more feminine dress: the drapery of the cloak changed into a shawl, and the tunic became an elegant tight-sleeved gown with a high waist.

    The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 15th century, Museo di San Marco, Florence

  4. The artistic popularity of antique models during the Italian Quattrocento meant that angels began to resemble female Victories, although the Christian context leaves no doubt as to their identity.

    Reliquary of Saints Protus, Hyacinth and Nemesius, Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1425–1428, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

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