Angels we have seen on high

Bas reliefs enliven the Rubens Room
at the Ringling Museum

The first time an angel appeared in Christian art was in an Annunciation scene in a second-century cemetery sculpture.

In the fourth century, winged angels were seen in bas-reliefs, or sculpture slightly raised from the background, in Carthage.

After the sixth century, winged angels became common place image in Christian art. Made to appear as winged, nude, male babies, or cherubs, by Florentine stone cutters, they gave life to the Christian faith. They also enlivened Old Master paintings, including the art of Peter Paul Rubens.

Enter the Rubens Room at the Ringling Museum of Art.

When John Ringling built the gallery to house his collection of Rubens' epic canvases "The Triumph of the Eucharist", he commissioned Sarasota craftsman Claude Baylor to copy the winged angels in the paintings, including the draped garlands held aloft by the angels.

Baylor fashioned bas-reliefs in the cove ceiling. He placed the flying putti over each of the four paintings, as well as over each side of the gallery entryway.

These happy bambini, in the painting and on the wall above them, invigorate the galleries with joy. Which makes them consummate models for Christmas.

December 24, 2000
Joan Altabe