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Flights of Angels: The Heavenly Orders in the Renaissance

Meredith J. Gill, professor of Italian Renaissance art and chair, department of art history and archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park. To think about angels among the world’s religions is to think about the question of embodiment. As messenger figures, they choose human form, yet they are incorporeal and without gender in their theological essence. Angels have long invited highly abstract and intricate categories of classification, particularly within the medieval university curriculum for which Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Doctor,” and Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor,” wrote foundational texts. Yet angels have also invited the most sublime feats of artistic imagination. In this lecture recorded on April 28, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Meredith Gill discusses several angelic episodes in Renaissance art, such as Tobias and the Angel and the Fall of the Rebel Angels, reflecting on mortal identity and experience in early modern times