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“The Last Angel”, Roerich – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

The last angel is Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich. 1912. Tempera on cardboard. 52.5 x 73.8 cm
The plot of the picture is borrowed from the Bible, but is interpreted in the style characteristic of Roerich. According to the Bible, the Last Angel punishes humanity for the accumulated sins and manifested lack of spirituality, destroying the old world with fire and sword in order to completely renew it. The canvas was created in the troubled years preceding the start of the First World War. It is interesting that the artist painted the second picture of the same name exactly thirty years later, at the height of yet another universal catastrophe – World War II.

The picture is made in rich and alarming scarlet and purple tones. On the canvas there are many small, but very important details that need to be carefully considered. The image partially uses the motifs characteristic of ancient Russian icons. This influence can be seen in the method of schematic and at the same time three-dimensional image of cities, as well as in the typically “Byzantine” appearance of the angel himself. It looks like one of the icons with St. George the Victorious of ancient writing.

The angel is the central figure of the picture. He is depicted in full growth, descending to the ground in clubs of fiery golden smoke or clouds. He has both tender and severe appearance, dark hair and large purple wings behind his back. Angel is dressed in a long medieval “dress” with spectacular gold embroidery trim. In his hands is a long, sharp spear and a large oval shield. On the feet of an angel, typical for the Middle Ages, pointed-toed soft shoes such as boots.

The background image serves a mountainous landscape. The mountain peaks towering in the distance are painted in cool bluish and violet tones, while the ground in front of them literally burns with fire. Flame cities with towers and walls covered in fiery tongues. All this fiery hell is cut only by a long river with cool, blue water – a symbol of purification, and a small spot of a green meadow with lush flowers, located under the feet of an angel. It is a symbol of a purified, innocent and reborn life.

With all the deep philosophical content of the canvas, one cannot underestimate the artistic value of the painting. It is filled with color, expression and expressiveness, while the protagonist’s motionless posture cannot be called static.

Of course, this is an image that is amazing in strength and expressiveness, a vivid protest against war, stagnation, hostility and all that is dark and evil that can destroy our world.

The last angel of 1942"

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