The work of art I chose was “The Angel of Death and The Sculptor” by Daniel Chester French. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, he recreated this piece based on the authentic sculpture by Martin Milmore. Martin Milmore created the piece as a memorial in honor of his brother’s death. The original artwork was made of bronze, but French recreated the piece out of marble. The original work of art is located in Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
In the Metropolitan Museum, the recreation is located in the American Wing. This section of the museum has a glass roof to let sunlight shine through. The work of art is standing up against a flat concrete wall. Several feet in front of the sculpture is a water fountain. I could hear the water flowing as I observed The Angel of Death. It gave me a feeling of serenity.
The piece is a relief sculpture. It seems as though it was meant to be seen from the front, but it has multiple viewing angles. I suspect that French was a fan of the Classical Era. The Angel of Death is standing contrapposto. Her dress drapes around her body; losing sight of her feet. His attention to detail is evident. The dress looks very realistic and free flowing, and you can see the feathers in her wings. She has a cloak or hat that envelopes her face. The way her hand holds the poppies is naturalistic. Her features appear muted about what she is about to do; take the sculptor’s life.
French indicates that the sculptor is very young and talented through his work. Not only does this piece have classical characteristics, but it also has the Old Kingdom attributes. The sculptor is in the middle of creating a profile piece of the Sphinx which is located in Giza, Egypt. He has a long bladed tool in one hand holding above his head, and in the other is a hammer about to strike. He has one leg up and is barefoot while is wearing an apron-like smock over his clothes which drapes down his body. His arms and back look remarkably lifelike. Another example of French’s attention to detail. There is a huge amount of negative space between him and his art work. It looks as though he is in mid-action but still with classical characteristics. Looking at Hellenistic or Baroque art, I can tell the difference in the works between emotions and movement.
There is plenty of light shining down on this piece. The dark areas are mostly around The Angel of Death’s face. In my opinion the darkness is there to show the sadness or gloom around her. I get the impression the man that is honored in this piece was a real sculptor like his brother, Martin Milmore, and was taken from the world at a young age. His face is smooth and very innocent. I am unsure of how he passed, but French implies that it was too early. I get the feeling of shock that the sculptor is about to be taken away right in the middle of working on his piece. From looking at this I feel sad for the family that lost this sculptor, but it also gives a sense of peace that possibly he was taken by an angel. An angel showing calm and peace.
I am unsure of what the original work looks like, but French’s take is naturalistic and photographic. When I stood on either side of the sculpture I saw something different. I was able to see full frontal of their faces. Standing in the front or viewing a photo of the piece only their profiles are visible. You can see the negative space between the arms, legs and head of the sculptor’s body. The Angel of Death is so grand and big compared to the young man. She must be over six feet tall. Standing there, I felt so small compared to her.
Viewing this piece in person gives it more depth. I have more perception of what the artist is trying to convey. In my opinion, observing a work of art in person gives oneself a better appreciation of the piece. You can enjoy it and view it in its entirety. Looking at a photo does not do it justice. The paintings, sculptures, and buildings that I have learned in this class has intrigued me. I hope to travel around the world to view and receive a true comprehension of the great works of art throughout history.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000 – 2011