Frans Floris I (after restoration) courtesy of the musuem

Fall of the Rebel Angels

Frans Floris (I), 1554
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

Fall of the Rebel Angels is probably the best-known work by Frans Floris, one of the foremost Netherlandish artists of the sixteenth century. The dense tangle of figures that fills the pictorial space is oppressive in its effect, all the more so as the painting is a monumental altarpiece measuring around three meters in height. Standing immediately in front of the picture, viewers cannot but feel they are being swept into the abyss by the sheer force of the tumbling bodies. The richness of detail and the depiction of the rebel angels as fantastical hybrid creatures continue the pictorial idiom of Hieronymus Bosch, while the sculptural modelling and virtuoso foreshortening of the bodies are inspired by the Italian art that Floris had studied during his time in Italy. His artistic achievement lies in this fusion of the painterly traditions of two artistic heritages. Because of this, Floris ranks even higher than Pieter Bruegel the Elder as a major forerunner of Flemish Baroque painting.

Claudia Koch, Interim Head and Curator, Gemäldegalerie, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

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