Frans Floris I
Antwerp 1519 - Antwerp 1570
oil on panel
303 x 220 cm
Inventory number 112
The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by
Frans Floris I, was commissioned by the Antwerp fencers' guild. After his time in
Rome, Floris's style of painting became influenced by the Italian Renaissance art of
Raphael. This particular composition consists of a jumble of limbs, wings and
tails with an army of angels overhead. Under the leadership of St Michael, they drive the
seven-headed dragon and its angels out of heaven. It is a battle that goes back to the Apocalyptic
vision of John and it symbolises Christ's struggle with evil.
The side panels of this triptych were lost during the Iconoclastic Fury of 1566, but fortunately the central panel survived. The prominent central figure is Michael, the patron saint of fencers. As the guardian of Paradise and foe of the devil, he served as an example to the members of the guild. They regarded themselves as Christian soldiers who fought evil and maintained order in the name of Jesus.
Between the writhing bodies, Floris inserted some subtle details, such as the virgin from John's vision, in a small gap in the left of the painting. Dressed with the sun and a crown of twelve stars, she is threatened by the dragon, as angels lead her child to heaven. In the bottom right of the painting, we notice a bee: a symbol of the devil or a metaphor for diligence? Art historians are still not quite sure.