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Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)  Six winged Seraphim  Paper, watercolor, graphite pencil, Italian pencil, 1905  The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
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Title: Six winged Seraphim
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Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)
Six winged Seraphim
Paper, watercolor, graphite pencil, Italian pencil, 1905
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia


 

A seraph (Heb. שׂרף, pl. שׂרפים Seraphim, lat. seraph[us], pl. seraphi[m]) is one of a class of celestial beings mentioned once in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh or Old Testament), in Isaiah. Later Jewish imagery perceived them as having human form, and in that way they passed into the ranks of Christian angels. In the Christian angelic hierarchy, seraphim represent the highest known rank of angels.With the revival of neo-Platonism in the academy formed around Lorenzo de' Medici, the seraphim took on a mystic role in Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1487), the epitome of Renaissance humanism. Pico took the fiery Seraphim—"they burn with the fire of charity"—as the highest models of human aspiration: "impatient of any second place, let us emulate dignity and glory. And, if we will it, we shall be inferior to them in nothing", the young Pico announced, in the first flush of optimistic confidence in the human capacity that is the coinage of the Renaissance. "In the light of intelligence, meditating upon the Creator in His work, and the work in its Creator, we shall be resplendent with the light of the Cherubim. If we burn with love for the Creator only, his consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim."

St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian who was a contemporary of St. Thomas Aquinas, uses the six wings of the seraph as an important analogical construct in his mystical work The Journey of the Mind to God.

As they were developed in Christian theology, seraphim are beings of pure light and have direct communication with God. They resonate with the fire symbolically attached to both purification and love. The etymology of "seraphim" itself comes the word saraph. Saraph in all its forms is used to connote a burning, fiery state. Seraphim, as classically depicted, can be identified by their having six wings radiating the angel's face at the center.

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Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)  Romeo and Juliet  Watercolors, 1895-1896  The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, RussiaMikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)  Six winged Seraphim  Paper, watercolor, graphite pencil, Italian pencil, 1905  The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, RussiaMikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)  Princess Volkhova. N.I.Zabela-Vrubel as Volkhova in Sadko (opera)  Paper, watercolors, 1898  The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
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