Faces of Death

Lapham’s Quarterly:

…  Christian art adopted the iconography of the rich pantheon of Greek daemons, and we can see echoes of Thanatos in paintings with religious subject matter. Evelyn de Morgan’s 1890 oil on canvas, The Angel of Death, merges Biblical subject matter with an Arcadian landscape and neoclassical figures. The scythe and long cloak signal the angel’s status as an agent of death, but the dappled light on the folds of his robe and the feathers of his wings, the gentle touch of his hand, and his serene facial expression all identify him as a benefactor of divine grace rather than a merciless reaper. Christianity’s promise to the believer of a blessed afterlife strips death of its macabre quality, and this is reflected in de Morgan’s rendering.


Evelyn de Morgan, The Angel of Death, c. 1890. (Wikimedia Commons)

More on the history of the depiction of death here.


2 thoughts on “Faces of Death

  1. The greatest so-called visible for me of Death, even as I remember as a wee Catholic boy, was and is the sweet classic Crucifix of Christ!

    “And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden. Weigh now! you breakers of images, I defy you to prove the opposite!” (Luther’s Works Vol. 40, Church and Ministry)

  2. beautiful & inspirational art is truly a ‘lost art’!
    the “believer’s” reciprocal response attest to why St. Francis would say: “welcome sister death”.

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