François B.-M.-E. Cibot (French, 1799–1877),
Fallen Angels (Les Anges Déchus)
oil on canvas, 49 x 37 1/2 in.; 124.46 x 95.25 cm
Museum purchase, 1995.18
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Inspired by John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, this painting shows the defeated rebel angels fallen from heaven. The bloodied wings, slithering serpents, fiery wasteland, and brooding figures plotting revenge are taken directly from the text. In subject and style, the painting epitomizes French Romanticism. Contrasting with Neoclassical rationality and restraint, its theme is highly emotional and celebrates the “dark side” of human existence. Drama is achieved through extreme light-dark contrasts, potent, burning colors, and a dynamic composition of strong diagonals. Darkness obscures much of the picture space and elicits a feeling of uncertainty, an appropriate response to the threatening subject.