An American Christmas card, c. 1905
Angeli Laudantes, 1898 . Cartoon by John Henry Dearle, 1860-1932 based on a design by Edward Burne-Jones, 1833-1898, British. Woven for Morris & Co. at the Merton Tapestry Works. Dyed wool and silk on undyed cotton warp. Arts and Crafts movement, UK. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Trumpeting angel above the pulpit of All Angels Church, NY (demolished 1978). Oak, installed 1900 in memory of members of the Cornell family. Carved by Karl Bitter, 1867-1915, born Austria. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Choir rail from All Angels Church, NY (demolished 1978). Limestone, installed 1900 in memory of memory of the Cornell family. Carved by Karl Bitter, 1867-1915, born Austria. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Archangel, Narga Sellassie (Church of Repose or Rest) on the island of Dek in Lake Tana, northern Ethiopia. The angels of Ethiopian Orthodoxy are often armed. This one is guarding Mary and her son.
Paired angels on the central beam of the cambered roof at Holy Trinity, Blythburgh, Suffolk, England. Rebuilt in the 15th century at a site in which there was a Christian community since the 7th century.
Salve Regina, leaded glass, after 1910. Tiffany Studios, New York; designed by Frederick Wilson, 1858-1932, American, for Stony Wold Sanatorium Chapel, Lake Kushwaqua, New York. On display 2015 at Winterthur, Wilmington, Delaware
Amour Caritas, bronze, cast by 1905. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1848-1907, American. Corcoran Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
I recall that life was hard and short for the majority of people who lived in the cultures in which these beautiful images were made. That is still the case in Ethiopia.
Now the lives of many of us are easier and we live longer.
So many images are created now every second and we replace them as quickly as we like. They tend not to mark the passage of time now nor impose on us any duty.
Often they carry no meaning at all or none worth contemplating.
Sometimes, as with the Afrofuturism to which young acquaintances have pointed me, these images and compositions carry the critique of present conditions and the hope and work of a group of people for widening social justice.
As was the founding hope of the religious tradition which produced these images.