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COMPLIMENTARY COPY Published Weekly By Joel Sater Publications VOL. 43, NO. 52 FRIDAY DECEMBER 21, 2012 Collectible Angel Figurines Land Just In Time For The Holiday By Donald-Brian Johnson “ ngels we have heard on high, Sweetly singing o’er the plains. . .” Traditional carol A It’s Christmastime once again, and the heavenly host is out in full force. Ceramic angel carolers line the mantelpiece. Their cohorts hover protectively over cherished Nativity sets. And, at the very Kneeling angel marked “Germany,” and Hummel angel candleholder. 4-1/2 inches high; 7-1/2 inches high. $25 to $40; $75 to $100. Greek word “angelos” (“messenger”) is the basis for our modern term “angels”. Since a primary Scriptural function for angels is to serve as heavenly messengers, the title is an apt one. thought, (although with equally unverifiable results). Albert the Great, for instance, did some arcane calculations, and came up with an angelic total of “four billion”. Since Biblical scholars often toss around the term “myriads” when it comes to counting angels, Albert was probably in the ballpark. (But then, so was that monk.) As for the answer to that strangest of age-old questions, “How many What angels can dance on the Are head of a pin?”, Saint They? Thomas Aquinas postulated that Angels “only one angel can occupy one are place at one time”. This would comseem to indicate just one dancmonly ing angel per pinhead. accepted by believers However, since no one knows as immortal spirits. the size of an angel...or how Depending on your relimany “places” exist on a pin gious point of view, head...the solution to the they were either riddle remains just as elubrought into being by sive (and headache-inducGod on one of the ing) as ever. Days of Creation, or What Do They Do? In created eons before. addition to their roles as How Many Are messengers (“The angel There? One monk of of the Lord appeared. . .”; the Middle Ages answered this “The angel of the Lord said. . .”), query with a witty “enough”. angels pretty much take on whatOthers have given the matter more ever duties are assigned them by their heavenly Boss. Those tasks can range from leading the Israelites through the desert, to s a v i n g D a n i e l from the lion’s den, to rescuing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. According to widespread religious belief, angels are also kept busy watching over the rest of us, with each individual assigned a guardian angel. (Some folks are on a firstname basis with theirs. Saint Gemma Galgani, for instance, said her guardian angel paid daily visits, and stayed for lengthy chats.) For most religions, however, the primary function of angels is to give praise to their Creator. (In other words, that “multitude of the heavenly host” doesn’t just report for duty on Christmas Eve.) What Do They Look Like? top of the tree, a gauzily-gowned angelic guardian twinkles merrily away. For angels, the holiday season is the equivalent of TV programming during sweeps week. But just for a moment, stop and think about it. Those downy white wings and burnished halos are actually with us all year ‘round. There are guardian angels. Birthday angels. Angels in the outfield. Angels in your pocket. Angels on your shoulder. There are angels of every shape, size, and wing span. And, for collectors of angel figurines, that’s heavensent news. Some collect angels for inspirational reasons, or as special keepsakes. Others enjoy the seemingly infinite number of ways a single theme can be interpreted. But whether your taste runs to dime-store imports, figurals by a The Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque lighting ceremonies, the installation reflects specific designer, or crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a the spirit of the holiday season. high-end depictions, long-standing yuletide tradition in New York, is The annual Christmas display has evolved one thing’s for sure: on view for the holiday season, (through January through the generosity, enthusiasm, and dediyear in and year out, 6, 2013.) The brightly lit, 20-foot blue spruce - cation of the late Loretta Hines Howard, who these heavenly messen- with a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan began collecting crèche figures in 1925. Soon gers provide 365 days angels and cherubs hovering among its boughs after, Mrs. Howard conceived the idea of preof angelic delight. and groups of realistic crèche figures flanking the (Continued on page 7) Angels. They’re not N a t i v i t y just for Christmas any- scene at its more. base - will Whence Comes once again This Rush Of Wings? delight holiNow, those who can day visitors in actually lay claim to the Museum’s having seen an angel M e d i e v a l live and in person are S c u l p t u r e few and far between, Hall. The Met (and the word “Saint” is located at usually precedes their 1000 Fifth names). But over the Avenue at centuries, theologians 82nd Street, and layfolk alike have in New York continued to tussle with City. the concept of unseen Set in heavenly beings. Who front of the are they? What are 18th-century they? How many are Spanish choir there? What do they do? screen from What do they look like? the Cathedral The deductions, right or of Valladolid, wrong, (and who on with recorded earth really knows for C h r i s t m a s sure?), have resulted in music in the a litany of popular b a c k g r o u n d angelic lore: and daily Detail of the Neapolitan Baroque crèche. Gift of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964. Who Are They? The Unless you’re St. Gemma, or one of her visionary cohorts, the “look” of an angel is fluid, limited only by the boundaries of imagination. Angels presumably made their speedy journeys from the skies, so early artists depicted Vintage Higgins fused glass hanging angel, fashioned from patterned glass remnants, brass halo. 11 inches high, $400 to $450. them with wings. Halos graced the heads of both angels and saints, an artistic shorthand for holiness. And those fulllength, flowing angelic robes favored by Renaissance artists were really just ethereal adaptations of the garments draping their more down-to-earth religious subjects. (There are, of course, always exceptions: the defending Archangel Michael is (Continued on page 2) Magnificent Christmas Tree & Neapolitan Baroque Crèche Return To The Metropolitan For The Holidays Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche display at The Metropolitan Museum in New York City; a 20-foot blue spruce with a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan angels and cherubs among its boughs and groups of realistic crèche figures flanking the Nativity scene at its base, displayed in the Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall. Gift of Loretta Hines Howard, 1964. Behind the tree: Reja from the Cathedral of Valladolid, Spanish, 1763, wrought iron, partially gilt, and limestone, 52 by 42 foot (15.86 by 12.81 m). Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, 1956.

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