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God the Father and Three Angel Heads


Austria School, Vienna


God the Father and Three Angel Heads


About 1750-1775


Polychromed wood


84.4 x 104.1 x 58.4 cm


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 1962.Df.12


Western Art

This work comes from the Ursuline Convent in Vienna, which was built between 1734 and 1745. Resembling a three-storey sacred theatre, its decoration comprised niches with stained glass windows and arched vaults along its passages. Containing carved and painted wooden figures depicting saints, churchmen, and scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the niches were, in a way, pictures in three dimensions. This sculpture, a bust of God the Father emerging from a cloud, crowned with a triangular halo symbolizing the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). He holds, as Jupiter would, lightning bolts in his right hand. It was part of a larger decorative element whose iconography is evinced through this fragment. As this divine hand conveys a revelation, it may be from a scene depicting the Prophet Moses receiving the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai, or from an ominous one showing Saint Sebastian or Saint Roch interceding with Him to put an end to the scourge of the plague.

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