St. Michael and Gothic Art

Juan de la Abadía el Viejo (fl. 1470-1498) was a Spanish painter in the gothic Spanish-Flemish style. See more below.


ABADIA, Juan de la The Archangel Michael


The archangel Michael was, like St. George the dragon-killer, a warlike saint in the age of chivalry. According to rabbinic fought with Pharoah in order to save Moses from execution. (That is, according to Jewish rabbinic legend, when Pharoah discovered that Moses had killed an Egyptian task master, he was about to kill Moses with a sharp sword when angel Michael descended from heaven, and took the form of the executioner, giving the latter the shape of Moses and so killing him.[9] He then took up Moses and carried him beyond the frontier of Egypt for a distance of three, or, according to another account, of forty, days (“D. Y.” l.c.; “Book of Jasher” p. 115b).[9]According to another legend, the angel took the shape of Moses, and allowed himself to be caught, thus giving the real Moses an opportunity to escape (Mek., Yitro. 1 [ed. Weiss. 66a]; Exodus Rabba i. 36).[9] 

This is a minor legend though. St. Michael plays a more important role in Christianity, fighting Satan, and is supposed to appear in Apocalypse where he defeats the dragon with seven heads and ten horns. St. Michael was therefore looked upon as one of the principal patrons of the Church who, having overcome Satan, could protect all innocent souls from the Devil. He also had a fast day named after him, Michaelmas.

Here is interesting background on this saint: Two of this Archangel’s roles: He defends the cause of God’s oneness against the presumption of the dragon, the “ancient serpent”, as John calls it. The serpent’s continuous effort is to make men believe that God must disappear so that they themselves may become important; that God impedes our freedom and, therefore, that we must rid ourselves of him.

Juan de la Abadia of Huesca was a provincial painter. He shows a few different styles here:  the brilliant tints of the wings reflects the International Gothic style. The figures are wooden and lifeless and show a limited knowledge of anatomy.but the carefully arranged pattern of the floor creates the illusion of space, showing that the artist knew something of Gothic art and early Renaissance art.

What is so interesting in the painting is the weighing of souls by St. Michael. The corrupt soul is caught about to be munched on by the devil. It seems to me that the features of the corrupt soul have been made to look Jewish. Incidentally, there was another  Juan de la Abadia after this one, no relation, who was a Jew (Marrano) burned by the Inquisition.

About kinneret

Hello, and welcome. I'm writing this blog under an alias. Why an alias? I started to write what may be described as an "American Gothic" novel (sort of Henry James/ Franz Kafka with violence) with some autobiographical details. ..when I started this blog I just decided to use the alias. This blog is about art and art history, but my interests also include literature, film analysis, psychology, forensic psychology, faerie tale analysis, cognitive therapy, cognitive linguistics, classical theater, World War II, and Russian and British history. My favorite writers include Kafka, the Brontes, and Philip K Dick. Thank you for reading this blog and I will happily reply to any comments.
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