The art of Saint Michael

When I created this blog I was looking for header images, and came across the beautiful blue-winged Michael that adorns my sidebar. Several of my loyal 6-7 readers have complimented me on him, and that has inspired me to find more images. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I found loads.

Michael is an important being in anthroposophical thought. He is believed to be the archangel who is overseeing and inspiring human development during our time. The image of Michael subduing the dragon corresponds with the modern task of overcoming materialism through conscious spirituality. Steiner called Michael the “true spiritual hero of freedom.”

We’ll just pretend I posted this back in September for Michaelmas. Moving right along…

This first image is from the Ethiopian Alwan Codex, early 20th century, found on BibliOdyssey. I love how this resembles a Russian icon, but the figures are clearly African. The white horse is a nice touch, and the dragon is particularly crocodilian:

Ethiopian Alwan Codex

Here Raphael includes Lucifer in a human form, instead of as a dragon or serpent. Notice that Lucifer still has his wings–he is a fallen angel after all. Michael has beautiful multicolored birds’ wings!

A late 15th-century Danish fresco, with Michael weighing human souls. That little demon sure isn’t helping:

Many Michael paintings have extremely detailed armor and weaponry. An early 15-century Spanish Michael, with a very fancy brigandine:

This 15th-century Italian work shows a very tiny devil being crushed under Michael’s heavily armored foot. St. Peter looks fairly blasé about the whole thing (you might too, if you had the key to heaven!):

A Polish icon, with the serpent in a fascinating infinity shape:

William Blake’s “Michael Binding the Dragon.” Here Michael looks quite human (no wings or armor, not even a halo) but the adversary is an incredible dragon with a human head:

Sometimes Michael’s battle is clearly in the heavens:

And sometimes it’s on the Earth. Note the marvelous seven-headed dragon (from the war in heaven of Revelation, I presume):

I could go on, but I’m sure there are a few art history dissertations out there on this subject already.



Filed under Anthroposophy, art

9 responses to “The art of Saint Michael

  1. This is amazing! I worked for a college in Japan that was next to a cathedral and above the door was a frieze of St. Michael. I am going to have to write my St Michael post now, I will do that later in the week. I’ve got a funny one planned for tomorrow!

    My favourite picture is the Ethiopian one, the first one. I really am going to have to hunt down my Mary card collection – I have an Aboriginal Mary and Jesus among the pictures.

  2. Heh, oh dear, I didn’t even do my funny post today, it’s been a fraught morning! But at least now I have lots of ideas for posts for the next few days.

  3. Hopewaits

    I thought that archangel Michael is the protector of Israel.

  4. Hopewaits: Michael is an important figure in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I don’t know much about it, but from what I see on Wikipedia, he is known as the protector of Israel based on the book of Daniel. In Islam, he appears once in the Qu’ran.

  5. Stephanie Keefer

    I dearly love the images, and there are many, in which the angel Michael looks extremely androgenous and at times terribly effeminate. But no less victorious.

  6. Steph: My kids were just today saying something about whether angels were men or ladies, or both. I told them I think they’re neither.

    I’m sure there’s some interesting art history text out there explaining the combination of androgyny/femininity/armor combination.

  7. Eve

    I think your St. Michael of the blue wings is beautiful. He goes so well with your layout.

    You should let me make you a PhotoShopped header of him for your blog. I can do that. It would be pretty, I promise!

  8. As you know, I was otherwise engaged on the 3rd but these are beautiful pictures – I’m a sucker for Blake, of course…

  9. James

    I’m looking for stencil artwork for st. michael to incorporate into our new school logo. I haven’t seen any and wonder if it exists.

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