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Angels in Masterpieces of Book Culture

decoration20 Nov. 2014|01 Jan. 2015

Masterpieces from the rich collections of the Austrian National Library - the perfect event before Christmas: The Austrian National Library follows the traces of angels in rare books and illuminated manuscripts. Selected works from 500 years of book culture lead into a fascinating world of ideas whose origins are to be found in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. They are the material from which the Jewish, Christian and Moslem faiths developed their doctrines of angels. Even the word angel goes back to the Hebrew Bible, the Greek edition of which translated the term messenger as angelos.

However, the Bible does not describe angels as having two wings growing from their shoulders. They are pictorial formulae that were adopted from antiquity by Christian art, while Judaism retained its prohibition on images. Moslem artists also show angels with two wings, above all in private book illustrations, of which there are exquisite examples in the exhibition. The most beautiful Western representations include the Archangel Gabriel in the Liutold Evangeliar (around 1170). The images by the often anonymous Masters of the late Middle Ages document the efforts to establish a personal relationship with the angels, in particular in the sumptuous prayer books of the high aristocracy. Finally, courtly art produced two new types of angel, the female angel and the child angel, a development illustrated by high quality works by Gabriel Glockendon, Gerard Horenbout and Albrecht Dürer.


20 Nov. 2014|01 Jan. 2015
State Hall, Josefsplatz 1
Austrian National Library
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