The Art of Angels - Fallen angels

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with Envy and Revenge, deceived
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equalled the most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Raised impious War in Heaven and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to Arms.
                           John Milton: Paradise Lost Book 1


The most familiar source of the scene of the fallen angels in art is in Revelation:
   'And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
' (Ch 12, v 7 - 9)
 Another, shorter description comes from Luke: 'And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven'. (Ch 10 v18)
  These quotes leave many questions unanswered, and these have preoccupied theologians from the earliest times. Why did the angels revolt? From what hierarchical level did they come? How many were there? Where did they end up after being cast from heaven?
I'll look at these topics below.
  There are a number of images in art of the fall of the rebel angels,  but nothing I know of can match Breugel, so I'm going to settle for that. I do suspect that Breugel rather enjoyed himself when painting this. St Michael, centre, with help from other angels, is dealing with a variety of fallen angels, including fish-like ones and a rather beautiful one that looks like a butterfly. The angel at the top left with the trumpet is probably Gabriel, as that is an attribute of his.

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Why did the angels revolt?
  We know the chief of the fallen angels as Satan (enemy) when in Hell, but as Lucifer (light giver) before the fall. Paradise Lost talks of envy, pride and revenge, suggesting he suffered from the egotism of many historical humans. But of what was he envious? The non-canonical Wisdom of Solomon suggests it was Humanity, the creation of God:
   'For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it.' (Ch 2 v23 - 24)
Lucifer could not accept that he would have to serve humanity, or indeed Christ incarnated in human form. Images of the Coronation of the Virgin, with the human Virgin centre stage surrounded by subservient angels, would not have pleased Lucifer.

The Hierarchy of demons.
The number, seniority and individual function of the fallen angels has obsessed theologians, professional and amateur, since the earliest of times. King James the First wrote a treatise called Daemonologie on this subject. He divided the demons into four categories. The French Dominican Sebastien Michaelis got into conversation with the demon he was exorcising from a nun. The seemingly rather chatty demon told him that, like the angelic hierarchy, there were nine categories of demons in three hierarchies; this particular demon came from the lowest category. Sebastien write it all down in the appropriately titled Marvellous History.
As to how many there were, the learned fifteenth century Spanish Friar and Bishop Alphonso de Spina calculated the number to be 133,316,666, representing one third of the original angelic host.
  You may well feel that this is all nonsensical stuff with no basis in the Bible or serious theology. What it does illustrate, though, is the fascination, or even obsession with the subject throughout history.

Where did the fallen angels end up?
  The obvious answer is Hell:

So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay,
Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence
Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation . . .

                                                    Paradise Lost

Hell with all its delights is frequently portrayed in Christian art up to the Renaissance. I have suggested elsewhere that, while it might have been terrifying to contemporary audiences, modern viewers tend to regard them with amusement, inured by horror films. I do suspect though that some of the artists rather enjoyed exercising their imaginations in finding different ways to depict devils.
  There will be a selection of Hellish scenes when I look at images of the Last Judgement. I have discussed Christ's Descent into Hell here. the two images below are inspired by that other great poet who tackled Hell, Dante.


Bartolomeo di Fruosino:  Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Sandro Botticelli: Staatliche Museen, Berlin
As Milton makes clear, the devils did not remain in Hell:  Satan was allowed, with the 'High permission of all-ruling Heaven' to continue his evil schemes on Earth, 'That with reiterated crimes he might heap on himself damnation'. This is based on Revelation 20 verse 7- 8:

‘And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.’

This provided artists with many opportunities. Among the best are paintings showing the temptation and torment of Saint Anthony Abbot. I have written about those images here.
  Here are two far less grand images showing devils up to mischief. Giovanni di Paolo's Illumination (left) is entitled 'Heresy' and we see a devil whispering into the preacher's ear. The stained glass window (right) comes from the church of St Nicholas, Stanford-on-Avon,  Northamptonshire. Is is called 'a warning against idle gossip'. The two gossips clearly haven't noticed the devils. Are they encouraging the women to gossip, or is this a warning about what will happen to them if they don't stop?

A further tale of misbehaving angels on earth comes in Genesis Chapter 6:

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (v 6)
  This isn't an easy passage to interpret, but some suggest that it tells us that fallen angels came to earth and had their way with beautiful women, sometimes thought to be the daughters of Cain. The result of this was the birth of giants, known as Nephelim. God was so outraged that the Flood was initiated.
  Understandably, this story, which has echoes of the mythological tale of Uranus and his association with Gaia, producing the Titans, does not generally feature in religious art.

Angels page 1

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