Arquebusier angel (Ángel arcabucero) oil on canvas 49 1/2 x 32 1/2in
Provenance: Portland Art Museum
The ángel arcabucero was a popular image in the churches of southern Peru and the La Paz department of Bolivia. Clothed in flamboyant costumes, these military angels were shown holding an arquebus (matchlock gun), a spear or a sword. The poses of the angels derived from the engravings in Jacob de Gheyn's The Exercise of Arms, published in 1607, which depicted the military exercises of the period. Series of these angels were painted from 1690 onwards and were very popular in the eighteenth century. The similarities between the supernatural qualities of these angels and the ancient gods of the indigenous population probably helped the efforts of the church authorities in strengthening the faith of the new converts. In the present work the angel loads his gun while elegantly dressed in a richly embroidered coat with ballooning sleeves, his broad-rimmed hat adorned with ostrich feathers.