As recounted in the fifth-century Apocryphal Gospel of St. Bartholomew, the defender of heaven routed Lucifer and the fallen angels from heaven to the fiery bowels of hell. The Book of the Apocalypse (12: 7-9) forecasts a similar conflict with the forces of darkness at the Last Judgement. The cataclysmic final victory over evil is the subject of the Mexican Archangel St. Michael. The winged warrior, whose name means "He who is like God", stands triumphant with his right hand on the "New Temple of Jerusalem". His legion of angels within God's mansion welcome virtous humans. Before the divine edifice are objects associated with the Redemption. The "rose withouth thorns" and a crystal vase are Marian symbols linked with the Incarnation of Christ. The skull alludes to Adam, the expulsion from Eden and the resulting mortality of mankind. An attribute of the penitential St. Mary Magdalene, the jar is an emblem of her charity. Having sold her wordly possessions to purchase funereal ointments, she was the first person to whom the Resurrected Christ appeared. The Archangel St. Michael is a work of exceptional merit and stylistically depends upon late Baroque art in Spain. However, the painting probably was created during the late 18th century when Mexico was influenced by the Bourbon revival of ancient Roman art. A classical pavilion substitutes for the traditional Gothic architecture of heaven, which characterized earlier colonial "Last Judgements" and depended upon Flemish archetypes.
Dr. Barbara von Barghahn
Washington, D.C., 1992