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Angels with Staves

Sir William Blake Richmond1891/1904

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Opaque glass mosaic, designed by William Blake Richmond, executed by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars, completed by 1904



Three saucer-domes can be found in each of the two quire aisles. They were created during the later phase of the decoration efforts. The figures and composition is even more reduced and stylised than that of the earlier pictures created for the main part of the quire. Photographs of the stained-glass windows that once were part of Richmond’s decorative cycle show that they also showed legions of angels.



All these pictures feature symmetry and repetition as key decorative element. As a result they can be absorbed either as a colourful background pattern, but will reveal their meaning through the varying attributes: the objects held by the angels, their lavish wings and their backdrops are unique to each of the six mosaics: in the Minor Canons’ Aisle boats and anchors, brass horns, shields and swords, and agricultural tools and wheat sheaves feature (mosaic nos 7796, 7800-7801); in the Dean’s Aisle fortifications and scrolls, violins and flowers, and vines can be seen (mosaic nos 7803 to 7805). Some of these attributes relate to passages in the Book of Revelation, which is also the source for the imagery of the main mosaics of the apse.



The imagery of this particular mosaic is ambiguous. One of the angels carried a lidded chalice, which is surmounted by a red cross in a white circle, a reference to the communion. Therefore, in addition to the reference to the Book of Revelation, the mosaic can also be interpreted in this context.





Brief description: circular symmetrical mosaic; depicting angels as young men in brown tunics, placed on each of the main axes of the circle amid flowers; each of the angels holds an agricultural tool: a basket, a pair of shears, a scythe, and staves; the four sections between the angels are decorated with an oak tree and a mountainous landscape, the whole surrounded by a a floral border.



Related quotes:

Revelation 18:14-20: “Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, ‘Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.” (NRSV)



Literature and references: Zech 2015, pp. 7, 43.

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