Angels' Mass Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Angels' Mass dates from 1500 and can now be found at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, France.

Angel's Mass is one of Durer's most complex drawings featuring a lively seen of activity and merriment, perhaps similar to the biblical story of The Last Supper, only without the treachorous behaviour of Judas. As the title suggests, this scene is head-to-toe in angels, set against a backdrop of classical architecture. To see the amount of detail added here, it would surely have taken Durer a considerable time to finish it. It certainly goes way beyond just being a study drawing for a later woodcut or engraving, it is essentially complete in its current form.

Several angels hold a plaque in the foreground whilst the rest of the scene features a chaotic mishmash of contortions and interactions in an almost random fashion. The darker lines suggest it was completed in pen and indian ink, as with many of his sketches and having put so much effort into this piece he would have given it more care than some of his briefer sketches.

The multitude of figures set against classical architecture including mutiple pillars reminds us of some artists of several centuries later who were connected to the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the UK. The likes of John William Waterhouse and, particularly, Lawrence Alma Tadema, produced multiple paintings with similar content though within a new style that was popular at the time. Waterhouse himself would make use of mythological inspirations and local poetry within his work and moved on from this style later in his career.