Today’s dispatch is about an angel.
It’s a beautiful old piece this one, simply a rustic salvage of faded charm. Chic and shabby statuary naturally aged and weathered.
I found the piece just as you see it except for the missing wings.
What really draws me is the etched, worn and weathered patina, the serene, peaceful face peeking out from under layers of dry, flaking dirty white paint.
Old and weathered from being left to naturally distress, it brings a graciousness in its simple rustic beauty. As soon I saw it – without wings – I fell in love with it!
Where did this beautiful piece once belong? In a church, a cemetery? In the school yard? In a convent or the abbey? A monastery? A garden perhaps.
Perhaps a guardian angel watching over. Is it a sad angel, forlorn. Praying perhaps or weeping. Venerating. Worship. Raised eyes to heavenly souls.
The wings are new and came from Jeanne d’ Arc Living. They are made from a rust coloured wire frame that’s covered in very pale pink lace secured taut over the frame. They are light weight and sit at the back on the piece to which the original wings were attached.
Shabby rusty rosary beads with crucifix seen here on this patinated statue.
Are angels always barefoot? Do they wear shoes? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an angel depicted with shoes or covered feet. Have you? If angels wear sandals, flip-flops or slippers I’ve never seen it.
The soft pink fabric flowers are new and bought locally.
I simply draped some cotton lace remnants over those clasped hands.
Chic and shabby.
The mirror was red when I found it with bright yellow peeking through here and there.
Perhaps the angel is Gabriel, the Archangel.
Ah, yes, I had one of those old style Catholic childhoods that meant saints, saints and more saints, angels and archangels, cherabim and seraphim. The whole works and the topping too! Who remembers the May procession, the crowning of Mary in the grotto each May at Sevenhill?
I remember, all those years ago, as part of the annual Nativity narrative at my Catholic convent school in Clare SA, one of us was chosen to play the Archangel Gabriel. Yes, that’s Gabriel, the messenger of God, a very important Angel and it was a coveted role. How proud I was when I was picked! Oh, yes, there I was at 10-11 years of age, a blessed child now, a definite shoe-in for Heaven!
I remember, clearly, being nervous and shaky as I waited in the wings to make my grand entrance even though I had just one or two lines! But I, Gabriel, was there to appear as God’s messenger, to inform the blessed Virgin Mary that she would be giving birth to Jesus, the son of God. Hmmm. Live theatre. There I was in the thick of it playing a very important person! Oh, yes, I was the good little Catholic girl behaving as if I was in the presence of the Lord, and I was!
I can still remember the long white satin gown I wore and the clunky over sized wings. But of course it was mandatory for Gabriel to have big, big wings! Couldn’t have puny wings for Gabriel. He was the Archangel. And, yes I carried a white lily.
And so, the wings were made of whatever could be found at the time – wood, cardboard, calico (muslin), white paint, feathers, lace, sequins, glitter, string and glue. The wings, heavy and cumbersome, were strapped to my back through my shoulders and waist. I felt those wings on my back!
Etched by the elements.
As I say barefoot.
In the last few years I’ve acquired a small collection of vintage religious and ecclesial art, artifacts and paraphernalia. No, I’m not going through some sort of religious fervour or spiritual renewal! I simply enjoy the artistic and/or historical qualities of items collectible. Things like pictures, images, clothing, bibles, prayers books, rosaries (prayer beads), crucifixes and all the accoutrements as well as statuary whether chalk ware, plaster, wood or concrete. I enjoy their aesthetic beauty. Sometimes it’s a serene or mystic quality. A piece might have such intricate beauty and exuberance I want to know who created it. Who was the original craftsman, the artist?
You can view the pieces in their historical context as religious works depicting Catholic teachings to be respected for what they represented in theology not in themselves. Or you can view them as they are. As creative works of art without any religious connotation or spiritual meaning. Purely secular. Some have a mystic quality anyway. But don’t expect any intercession!
There is a serenity for some people in reviving such items for everyday use.
It is not unusual nowadays to find antique and vintage religious items used in home decor such as an old wood framed image of Mary on a wall or an antique French crucifix.
While I personally prefer vintage items, it is not hard these days to find Madonna and angel statues, crucifixes and other religious themed items as they are reproduced in myriad ways for home use.
Garden centres sell them as do gift, novelty and home decor shops. Etsy is full of religious statues many made to look rustic, antiquated and worn. Jeanne d’ Arc Living (and it’s stockists worldwide) carries various Madonna figurines. One only has to flip through its flagship magazine for a glimpse of the gorgeous Madonna statuary available.
I have come across Madonna and angel statues in various gardens and outdoor spaces. I have one in the garden.
Finally, and most interestingly, the people who are passionate about religious collecting are often not Catholic and not religious.