The ugliness of evil

I’d often noticed that devils and demons in medieval art are particularly grotesque – they often have faces on their behinds, or asses for faces, and a hodge-podge of limbs, as if they were put together senselessly or blindly, without the harmony and order so vivid in the beauty of Creation.

It had not occurred to me, however, what a friend pointed out: that the same in more recent art are often rather romantic, admirable, or even beautiful. Sometimes that conflict is intended to disturb the savvy viewer, who knows that that which appears attractive is actually deadly. But sometimes the depiction is meant to encourage a certain sympathy for evil, as if finding evil repellent is just a silly misunderstanding.

I don’t know if this difference is always evident – but below a selection of images of St. Michael that I happened to have on my laptop for another project a while back, with a variety of manners of depicting the Holy Archangel’s conquest of Satan, at God’s command*:

*Except the one eastern-style icon, which just shows a noble portrait of the robed archangel.

Oh thou work of art

I once wept, looking at an x-ray of my foot. It’s a work of art, a bit mangled from a ski accident, but with a beauty in the mere flow of the lines of the bones, tendons and flesh. Remember gazing at an infant’s hand with the same wonder? What tiny fingers! What adorable rolls of fat! The tired faces on the train, the bravado on the sidewalk, the swollen ankle of an elderly lady limping to her pew are the same. Each one made with tenderness.

Today I got the MRI for my shoulder and delighted in the spray of white and gray on black, like some avant-garde artist’s photography.

God be praised for His beautiful work, for the miracle of life and breath and touch.

God be praised for the laughter of words like subacrômiodeltoideana and glenoumerais and espessamento. Every week brings new vocabulary. This will probably not be remembered, as it is of little use outside the doctor’s office.