The Story of The Fallen Angel by Alexander Cabanel
"BETTER TO REIGN IN HELL THAN TO SERVE IN HEAVEN"
Alexandre Cabanel, a French Academic and Classical painter, was born in the city of Montpellier in 1823. He showed an early aptitude for sketching and was enrolled at the local art school in his birthplace of Montpellier when he was ten years old. By the age of 17, he had been accepted to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. For the first time, he exhibited in the Salon de Paris in 1844.
He quickly became a star of the Paris Salon after his debut. His work, which mostly dealt with classical, historical, or religious subjects, was mostly done in the academic style, with a significant Rococo influence.
Alexandre Cabanel painted Fallen Angel in 1847 as an academic oil on canvas painting. It is currently stored at the Musée Fabre in France.
The L'Ange Dechu, or Fallen Angel, is perhaps one of the most popular works of art ever created. Behind flexed arms, a winged nude hides his face. His brows arch over red-rimmed eyes and a tear of rage as his mane of hair breaks in the wind. Of course, his physique is flawless. Although his posture seems relaxed, each muscle is tensed and ready to fire. This is the last moment before he is cast out of paradise.
The year was 1847, and Alexandre Cabanel, at 24, was well on his way to being among the most important figures in French academic art. Cabanel enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of 17, showed art in the Salon de Paris at the age of 21, and was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome scholarship at the age of 22.
Cabanel's early work focused on religious themes, catering to the intellectual preferences of the period. In the salon, he had a picture of a sad Christ in the Guardian of the Olives. Another Christ, this time on trial at the Praetorium and facing Pontius Pilate, was his Prix de Rome winner. However, despite their talent, these paintings are devoid of genuine feeling. Jesus appears uninterested.
Perhaps a sleeping Jesus was required by salon custom, but Cabanel appears to have played it safe.
Cabanel then struck a speed bump in 1846. He painted a large-scape nude of the athletic Orestes, son of Agamemnon, based on traditional Greek drama, and the academy judges despised it. Their harsh comment was, "An large and incompetent composition."
The seductive angel appears. You're aware of who he is.
Although generations of painters had been inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost, Cabanel added a special spark to the story's fallen angels. In Milton's poem, five angels appear: Belial, Moloch, Mammon, Mulciber, and Beelzebub, the last of whom is Beelzebub, better known today as Lucifer.
Cabanel presented the Fallen Angel, the first representation of the devil produced by a pupil, after his earlier rejection by the salon. If he wanted to create a stir, he succeeded. The salon judges were initially taken aback, then disappointed.
In her book Cabanel Procès verbaux de l'Académie des Beaux-Arts, Sybille Bellamy-Brown describes the judges as noting, "...the movement is incorrect, the draughtsmanship imprecise, the execution inadequate..." and that it was also judged too romanticist in style.
Cabanel wrote to his friend Alfred Bruyas, "...that's my prize for all the difficulty I put myself through not to submit an ordinary piece of work..."
Cabanel would have to wait three more years for the colossal Death of Moses to win over the critics and judges, but after that, a constant legacy of muscular, melodramatic work cemented his place as the anchor of the French academy. But it all began here, with an angel with fiery eyes, for our money.
Mentioning again, Cabanel painted L'Ange Dechu while he was just 24, around the same age as the person shown.
He had drawn the identical person, despondent, with his head in his hands and storm clouds in the sky, a year before, in 1846.
Study for "Fallen Angel" - Alexandre Cabanel (1846)
This version, on the other hand, is unique. This demon is a beautiful fallen angel.
The posture is more sulky and defiant than remorseful. The head is raised, and there's that tear in his right eye, but the eyes themselves smoulder with silent anger, and the clasped, linked hands, and elevated elbows indicate that the struggle isn't done. His brilliant, glossy, gracefully flowing feathery wings are breathtaking. He's all set to take off.