Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Angels of the Days of Creation

The Days of Creation, 1871-6, oil and gouache, Harvard Museum
 Time for some more angel art, I think - and perhaps some of the most gorgeous ever.

The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones originally designed The Days of Creation for stained glass in 1870 and it became such a mahoosive hit that it was recreated many times (by him, by the William Morris factory, and by copyists) in fired tiles, church frescos, stained glass, and paints of various kind.

There are six panels, each representing one of the Biblical days of Creation, working from dark to light, monochrome to colour, one to many. The angels are male (ish) but the primary model was a 15-year-old girl, Jenny Morris.

On Day One, represented by a lone angel, the orb he's holding shows the light created in the void ("Let there be Light") and the separation of the Light from the Darkness, into Day and Night - if you look closely there are two diverging spheres within the angel's crystal orb.

On Day Two, yesterday's angel has retired to the background to make way for a second. The orb he carries shows the sky/heavens being separated from the waters below. There's no dry land yet.

On the Third Day, God picks up the pace quite a bit. He raises dry land out of the waters and then creates all of plant life to cover that ground. The marble floor beneath the angels' feet gives way to soil and plants too, at this stage.

Restored version, derived from B&W photos and contemporary descriptions: The Fourth Day was cut from its frame during a dinner party at Harvard University in 1970, and has never been recovered.

Whoa - hold on! something is missing from the sky, despite the pre-existence of day and night. On Day Four God hurriedly bolts on the Sun, Moon and Stars. Because logic.

Back to Earth for Day Five, when the fishes and the birds are created to fill the seas and the heavens. Beneath the angels' feet you can see puddles and seashells :-)

It's Day Six at last, and the frame is now rather over-crowded. God creates all the land animals, plus Adam and Eve to rule them. If you look closely you can see the wicked Serpent coiling about near their feet ....

(The Angel of the Seventh Day has gatecrashed the party and lolls about in the foreground in his pyjamas, playing the lute and watching Netflix.)

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