Renaissance artists made large use of putti (naked children especially Cupid-like) (e.g. in the balustrade by Mino da Fiesole in Cappella Sistina) and this tradition was followed also by Baroque artists. Francesco Borromini decorated the minor naves of S. Giovanni in Laterano with winged heads of children. Gian Lorenzo Bernini showed angels as boys in Habakkuk and the Angel in S. Maria del Popolo and in the Ecstasy of S. Teresa in S. Maria della Vittoria and as children in Cappella Paluzzi Albertoni in S. Francesco a Ripa.
Angels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in S. Andrea delle Fratte
In the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries angels were more often represented as young men. The most widely known example of this tendency is Ponte S. Angelo where ten statues of angels greet the pilgrims on their way to S. Pietro (in the background of this page the angel of Castel S. Angelo by Peter von Verschaeffelt). Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the author of two of the ten statues: the angel holding the inscription (I. N. R. I.) and the angel holding the crown of thorns. Pope Clement IX was so fond of them that he asked Bernini to put on the bridge two copies as he wanted the originals for his own palace. The statues however remained in Bernini's studio and in 1729 they were donated by Bernini's nephew to the church of S. Andrea delle Fratte (Bernini lived in a palace opposite the church). In his late works Bernini had a predilection for tall, slender bodies and he used the angels' dresses (and even the clouds) to convey emotions.
The church of S. Maria del Popolo was largely redesigned by Bernini at the request of Pope Alexander VII. The redesign included several statues, which were executed by a team of sculptors. Many of these statues represented angels used as a sort of architectural element. They hold the coat of arms of the Pope, the two organs and they show to the viewer the paintings on the altars of the transept. Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi were Bernini's preferred associates.
Angel by Ercole Ferrata on the fašade of S. Andrea della Valle
The use of angels as architectural elements is evident in the fašade of S. Andrea della Valle where they perform the role usually fulfilled by a volute. The left wing of the angel links the two levels of the fašade. This innovation however was not met with success.
Angel by Paolo Naldini in S. Marcello al Corso
Another example of the use of an angel as an architectural element is the angel holding the pulpit at S. Marcello. In this case Paolo Naldini, who started his career at Bernini's studio, elected to change the sex of the angel and the material with which the statue is made (wood rather than marble).
S. Ignazio - Altars in the transept: pairs of angels by (left) Bernardino Ludovisi and (right) Pietro Bracci
In the first half of the XVIIIth century the pattern of the angels was slightly modified: they became more effeminate and more revealing, with the dress falling in a simpler way and in some cases being so adherent to the body to become transparent. Bernardino Ludovisi and Pietro Bracci worked together in the decoration of Fontana di Trevi and in the altars of the transept of S. Ignazio.
Angels by: (left) Giuseppe de Fabris in S. Andrea della Valle (ca 1824); (right) Adolfo Apolloni in S. Maria del Popolo (1915)
Neoclassicist artists were not very keen to portray angels, a subject thought to be extraneous to the classical world (although Thanatos was often portrayed as an angel: see the relief at the base of Antoninus Pius' column). A totally different angel was imagined by Adolfo Apolloni for the monument to a member of the Chigi family at S. Maria del Popolo. The very long wing and the hair are a reminiscence of Renaissance paintings.
Other pages dealing with Baroque sculpture:
Statues in the act of praying
Representation of Death in Baroque sculptures
Monuments showing the dead in a medallion
Three chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Bernini's Exiled Statue
Three busts by Alessandro Algardi
Baroque Monuments to the Popes
Baroque High Reliefs
Statues Close to Heaven
Embittered Andrew (the statues in the Octagon of S. Pietro
The Last Baroque Tomb
Playing with Colours
A Directory of Baroque Sculpture