Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seven Devils


One of the best things I discovered in the Vatican Museums is the ceiling of the chapel in the house of Saint Pius V (1566-1572). Painted by blog favourite Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zucarri, this dome depicts a raging battle between angels and demons, heaven and hell.


The no holds barred brutality of these pairs struck me right away. The angels rip the hair of their opponents while stamping on their groins, bearing down upon them from above. For all their fluttering wings and soft pastel hues, these are muscular warriors mercilessly dominating lesser beings. Each is poised seconds before delivering the killing blow. For their part, the demons are frozen in their last desperate moments, alternately struggling and giving way; their part human, part animal bodies no match for the glorious power of the angelic army.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the demons who attract my greater interest here. But I like to think it isn't just me, and that these figures invite some empathy and connection with viewers. Their struggle and painful fall seems, to me at least, in many ways more 'human' than the righteous violence of the angels.

Blasphemy. I know.

Anyway, without further ado, here they are.

[Obviously these pics don't do justice to the brilliant colours of the real painting, but you get the idea.]







And my favourite:


This painting really stuck with me, partly because it feels so contemporary. Ideas of good and evil - who deserves to kill versus who deserves to be killed, who is more or less human - are as charged today as they were in the sixteenth century. More so, now that we possess the technologies to annihilate each other en masse.

This continuing relevance was brought home to me two days ago when, all tangled up in a ladies fitting room, I first heard this song.


 The lyrics are just perfect. It's as though she wrote them looking up at the dome.

Holy water cannot help you now
A thousand armies couldn't keep me out
I don't want your money
I don't want your crown
See I've come to burn Your kingdom down

Holy water cannot help you now
See I've come to burn your kingdom down
And no rivers and no lakes, can put the fire out
I'm gonna raise the stakes; I'm gonna smoke you out

Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in my house
See they were there when I woke up this morning
I'll be dead before the day is done

Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in your house
See I was dead when I woke up this morning,
And I'll be dead before the day is done
Before the day is done

And now all your love will be exorcised
And we will find your sayings to be paradox
And it's an even sum
It's a melody
It's a battle cry
It's a symphony

Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in my house
See, they were there when I woke up this morning
And I'll be dead before the day is done

Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in your house
See I was dead when I woke up this morning,
And I'll be dead before the day is done
Before the day is done
Before the day is done
Before the day is done

They can keep me alive
'Til I tear the walls
'Til I slave your hearts
And they take your souls
And what have we done?
Can it be undone?
In the evil's heart
In the evil's soul

Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in your house
See I was dead when I woke up this morning
I'll be dead before the day is done
Before the day is done

I think Florence + The Machine sound how Renaissance paintings look, if that makes sense. To use an exhausted term: they are epic.




 Very similar themes at work, also.

I recommend more viewing/listening on ye olde YouTube.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment