El Paso, TX
This particular exhibition focuses on the archangels with the highest popularity in 19th-century Mexican retablo art, Michael and Raphael. Their popularity rose from the merging of Pre-Columbian messenger deities with Catholic figures to ease the shift to a new religion. Saint Michael is considered to be the prince and captain general of Heaven’s angels. According to Christian teaching he was the one to combat Satan, the one to call men into their heavenly judgment and to lead the faithful to heaven after their death, and the champion of all Christians and the Church. Saint Michael’s depiction in retablos was inspired by the description of him leading his angels into battle against a dragon found in the Book of Revelation (12:7–9). He is portrayed as a young and beautiful winged entity often wearing armor consisting of mail and a helmet. He is shown either holding scales or a flaming sword, or sometimes both, while he subdues a demon under his feet. On the other hand Saint Raphael is depicted as a pilgrim or a guardian angel to allude to his description throughout the Book of Tobit. He appears holding a traveler’s staff, a gourd, and the fish that was used to heal Tobias’s father’s blindness, and sometimes he is shown wearing armor. He is depicted as a beautiful young man wearing a diadem with a cross in the middle and a red feather, but can sometimes have a boyish appearance. The exhibition does include a retablo that shows St. Raphael with Tobias (2007.6.2), a very rare occurrence in the depiction of the archangel.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website