Monday, 30 October 2017

le génie du mal

Our thanks to Kuriositas for introducing us to this handsome devil, who’s taken up residence underneath the pulpit (chaire de vérité) of Saint Paul’s Cathedral of Liège (previously).
Not the usual subject of religious sculpture, the artist who executed this fallen angel, Guillaume Geefs, had to come up with his own iconography—drawing from the myth of Prometheus and other sources to frame his creation—which was commissioned as a replacement for an earlier work by his younger brother, whose version of the Genius of Evil was removed from the church for being too much a distraction for the congregation. See a comparison at the link up top. I suspect that church-goers still do not dedicate their undivided attention to the sermon but rather spare a glance to the tortured soul lurking below—the elder Geefs making the androgynous figure even more alluring. The brothers Geefs came to prominence themselves in the 1830s with Belgian independence movement by creating nationalistic monuments and public sculpture that celebrated their history and culture separate from the Netherlands, and the Church turned to the artists to convey their dispatch of the “triumph of religion over evil’s genius” but it is debatable whether either iteration was exactly on message for parishioners and the wider public—the devil too sublime and seductive. It’s always a gamble whether people respond better to caricature or camouflage.