History of angels and animals in Christian art

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History of angels and animals in Christian art
Ever wondered why most of the Christian paintings has animals and birds in them? If you analyze Christian painting you will probably notice that how birds and animals are used in art to elucidate different things. Though Jesus was the main subject in Christian paintings, some icons like animals, birds, angels were also used in Christian Art. Icons are used to represent a number of things in Christian art painting.
The use of animal forms in art has been there since time immemorial. Animals were an easy way to exhibit a virtue or a vice. For instance, a lamb with a Good Shepherd is a demonstration of the earthly life of a Christian soul. Birds were often seen adorning the paintings or being used as a symbol like in Noahís dove, which represents the Christian soul freed from the worldly life by death. Similarly peacock and phoenix were symbolic of immorality and apotheosis.
Apart from depiction of birds and animals, another thing that appeared prominently in Christian art was angels. The use of angels in art was quite evident right from the 4th century A.D. Angels were illustrated as creatures with two wings. They were either depicted as babies or women. Angles as known were symbolic of virtue, good and everything heavenly.

In the early times, Egyptians and Greeks portrayed their gods as creatures with wings. It is said that Greek gods like Hermes and Peruses were depicted as two winged creatures. However, it is interesting to note that in the early Christian art, there were no angels with wings. Instead they were illustrated in the form of human beings dressed in normal human attire like robes.
It is pertinent to mention that depictions of angels were avoided by Christian artists almost till the fourth century. However, after the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine, angels were seen in art quite often. In fact from early fifth century, some churches were dedicated to the angels.
There is also information about use of female angels in art. Some pagan goddesses were believed to have wings and were thought to behave in angel-like manner. For instance, old pictures of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, bear a lot of resemblance to a woman with wings.
It is also worth mentioning that majority of the people were not literate at that time. In such a situation use of angels in a drawing or painting was the best way to depict god and his message to humanity. Angels were considered as godís messengers sent on Earth to carry out some duties.

All this information points out that religion had a strong influence on art in those days. And depiction of animals, birds and angels in Christian Art was just a means to make the common man more aware of the almighty.
If you have grown up, like all kids of average Christian families, listening to stories from Bible then owning a good Christian art painting is a must. You can even gift Christian art and this is one gift that will be loved by one and all.

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