Imagine being pushed out of heaven straight down to hell where you are meant to suffer for all eternity. The despair, rage, frustration and disgust are better imagined than experienced. That was Lucifer’s fate, according to the story we have told for centuries. There are many depictions of the story with a little embellishment here and there. However, no other depiction quite captures the story than Alexandre Cabanel’s The Fallen Angel painting.
This article, therefore, dissects The Fallen Angel painting by France’s Alexandre Cabanel in more detail.
What is Fallen Angel painting?
The Fallen Angel is a 1847 painting that depicts the devil after his fall from heaven. Before this time, religious and historical paintings usually included saints, angels and heroic figures as subject matter. However, The Fallen Angel was among one of the first academic paintings to portray the devil as the main subject matter.
According to Art in Context, the painting was inspired by the poem Paradise Lost (1667), written by John Milton, who was an English writer and poet. The poem talks about Lucifer’s defiance against God.
The Fallen Angel painting shows a nude figure of Lucifer with golden brown and bushy short hair. in rocky surroundings. He is leaning and seemingly half-reclining in a tensed manner against a long rock with a flat top. Lucifer’s hands are crossed and tears running from his eyes. Above him, several angels fly, rejoicing and celebrating in the vast expanse of sky, blending in with the blue of the heavens.
The Fallen Angel is regarded as a romantic work in which Lucifer is painted like a typical Greek God or hero, with a perfect body. His facial expression is a mixture of rage, despair and a promise of vengeance against the one that banished him. His wings are darkened at the tips, probably to show that they were rotting before his fall. Art experts believe that the moment captured showed he just fell from the heavens.
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Where is The Fallen Angel painting?
The Fallen Angel painting is currently stored at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.
Who made The Fallen Angel painting?
The Fallen Angel was painted by the French artist, Alexandre Cabanel, in 1847. He was 24 years old at the time. Cabanel was born in the city of Montpellier in 1823. By the age of 10, he had showed promise as a gifted painter and was enrolled at a local art school. At the age of 17, he was accepted at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1844, he exhibited his work in the Salon de Paris for the first time.
At the age of 21, he won the second Grand Prix de Rome, which earned him a scholarship to study in Rome. King Louis XIV set up the scholarship scheme for French artists to live in Rome for several years to study the classical masters from antiquity. Like many resident artists, Cabanel regularly sent paintings back home as a way to give update about his progress in Italy. It was during this time that he painted The Fallen Angel, also known as L’Ange déchu in French.
According to Sybille Bellamy-Brown’s publication, titled: Procès-verbaux de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts (“Minutes of the Academy of Fine Arts”), Cabanel’s portrayal of the devil as the main subject matter shocked and was instantly rejected by the academy judges. They described the painting as too Romanticist, “the movement is incorrect, the draughtsmanship imprecise, the execution inadequate”.
Cabanel himself wrote to his friend, Alfred Buyas, to portray his disappointment. He wrote: “…that’s my price for all the difficulty I put myself through not to submit an ordinary piece of work.”
It would take three years for Cabanel to earn the praise of art critics with his work, The Death of Moses. Since then, he has been credited with many paintings, including over 200 portraits, the majority consisting of women.
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