For centuries, angels have graced works of art with their ethereal presence. Appearing as ancient statues and adorning modern murals, these winged figures have become a fixture in art history spanning medium, culture, and time.
While our contemporary idea of what an angel looks like emerged in the 4th century, the existence of angel-like figures in art can be traced back thousands of years. Here, we explore the heavenly history of these divine beings, beginning with the earlier entities that inspired them.
In ancient Assyrian culture, a lamassu was a protective deity. Also commonly known as a "winged bull," this hybrid figure comprises the head of a human, the body of a bovine or lion, and large, feathered wings.
Because of both its role as a protector and the beauty of its mythological appearance, this god was often the subject of Assyrian art. Most famously, pairs of sculpted lamassu were placed at palace entrances, with the earliest examples dating as far back as the 10th century BCE.
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