“The last angel,” Reich – overview of the painting

“The last angel,” Reich – overview of the painting
“The last angel,” Reich - overview of the painting - 1

  • Posted by Nikolay Konstantinovich Rerich
  • Museum: Rurich Museum in New York
  • Year: 1912

Overview of the painting :

The last angel is Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerich. 1912. Cardboard, tempera. 52.5 x 73.8 cm

   The plot of the picture is borrowed from the Bible, but is interpreted in the style characteristic of Rerich. According to the Bible, the Angel the Last punishes humanity for its sins and spirituality, destroying the old world with fire and a sword in order to completely renew it. The canvas was created in the alarming years preceding the outbreak of World War I. It is interesting that the artist wrote the second same picture with the same name exactly thirty years later, at the height of another universal catastrophe – World War II.

   The picture is made in saturated and disturbing al and purple tones. There are many small but very important details on the canvas that need to be carefully considered. The image partially uses the motives characteristic of ancient Russian icons. This influence is visible in the method of schematic and at the same time volumetric image of cities, as well as in the typically “Byzantine” appearance of the angel himself. He looks like one of the icons with George the Victorious of ancient writing.

   An angel is the central figure of the picture. It is depicted in full growth, descending to the ground in clubs of fire-golden smoke or clouds. He has both a delicate and harsh appearance, dark hair and large purple wings behind his back. The angel is wearing a long medieval “coupling” with spectacular golden sewing. In his hands is a long, spicy spear and a large oval shield. An angel typical of the Middle Ages has pointed soft shoes like boots.

   The back plan of the image is a mountainous landscape. The far-reaching mountain peaks are painted in cool bluish and purple tones, while the earth in front of them literally burns with fire. Flame-tricked cities with towers and walls are covered with fiery languages. All this fiery hell cuts off only a long river with cool, blue water – a symbol of purification, and a small spot of green meadow with magnificent flowers, located under the feet of an angel. This is a symbol of a purified, innocent and revived life.

   With all the deep philosophical content of the canvas, the artistic value of the picture cannot be underestimated. It is filled with color, expression and expressiveness, with the motionless pose of the protagonist, it cannot be called static.

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