March 28th, 2008


"What sex is an angel?" asks pondhopper. Well, neither, obviously. An angel is a spirit and spirits are genderless. For the purpose of communicating with humankind they may assume a gender- or allow us to impose one on them- but in their own element they're neither one thing nor the other.

I went looking for pictures of angels. Most artists get it. Most pictures of angels- from medieval wall paintings to renaissance altarpieces to Russian icons- have angels who are superbly androgyne. Only in the 20th century- with the tradition broken and artists all at sea- do you get the odd, obviously gendered angel- either curvaceously feminine, or rippingly male. I don't like these gendered angels. They're wrong. There are things higher and holier than sex- and angels, dropping down into this lower realm to the sound of rebecks and viols, remind us of this. Their beauty- as the best artists have laboured to realise- is a beauty of the beyond. 

Image:Weyden michael.jpg

The Archangel Michael: Rogier Van Der Weyden.