Magazine article Anglican Journal

Giving Form to the Angels: Toronto Gallery Shows Angel Art from the Vatican

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Giving Form to the Angels: Toronto Gallery Shows Angel Art from the Vatican

Article excerpt

THE BIBLE tells us the nature of the hierarchy of angels, from archangels and seraphim through to the lower orders of principalities and powers. And they have played important roles in the stories of Moses, the Annunciation, and the Resurrection of Christ, to name a few.

But what do angels look like? Where do they come from? What is it they do? Can they really fly? These and other perplexing questions have fuelled theological debate for centuries and there is no resolution in sight.

Though the church has not come to any conclusion, artists from such diverse backgrounds and ages as Raphael and Salvador Dali have been willing to tackle the subject, and have provided a theme for the second travelling exhibit from the Holy See, The Invisible Made Visible: Angels from the Vatican. It is currently showing until June 27 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the only Canadian stop on the tour.

Collected from Vatican museums and collections, the approximately 100 pieces are an impressive array of Assyrian and Etruscan antiquities from 3,000 years ago, tempra or oil paintings, sculpture in various media, reliquaries and a selection of liturgical items, all featuring angels.

"This is a chance to look at the angel job description," says David Wistow, education director of the gallery. "They carry messages from God. In Greek angel means messenger, and they can be our guardians as well."

In researching the subject for the exhibit, Mr. Wistow came across some interesting theories about angels. "There are no hard facts; it's about faith," he commented. Aside from their hierarchical structure - "almost as complicated as the Canadian Civil Service" - angels are hard working, kind and friendly, and love to sing the praises of God. They are also thought to be beautiful beyond anything known.

Popular culture in our time abounds with angel imagery, ceramic cherubs, angel postcards, films about angels such as It's a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra, and pop songs on the radio featuring angels. …

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