Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Wednesday 31 May |
The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Aleteia logo
Art & Culture
separateurCreated with Sketch.

When St. Michael crushed a very Pope-ish looking devil


Maria Paola Daud - published on 09/08/17

The face in the painting looked very familiar…

What can God do in your life with one Bible verse a day?
Subscribe to Aleteia's new service and bring Scripture into your morning:
Just one verse each day.
Click to bring God's word to your inbox

Guido Reni’s work, “St Michael crushing the devil,” might be one of the most famous depictions of the commander of the Army of God. This 17th-century painting, which can be seen in Santa Maria de la Concepcion Church in Rome, is indeed a tour de force, in which the Archangel is represented in extraordinary supernatural beauty. But not every detail in the masterpiece is beautiful or supernatural. Some might be considered ugly and human — all too human.

The painting was commissioned by Cardinal Barberini, a member of one the two most important noble families of Rome at the time. The other was the Pamphilii family, which was not exactly on the best of terms with the Barberini. In fact, these two family were at odds with each other.

Guido Reni’s work, “St Michael crushing the devil,” might be one of the most famous depictions of the commander of the Army of God.

The Pamphilii also had a Cardinal in the family, Giovanni Battista Pamphilii. It is said that Cardinal Pamphilii had defamed the artist, seriously damaging his reputation. Reni, resentful, decided to take revenge on the Cardinal. When his work was finished and presented to the public, everyone was astounded by the perfection and beauty of the angel, but also marveled at the face of the devil: they found quite a striking resemblance to Cardinal Pamphilii.

Of course, the Pamphilii demanded an explanation from Reni. This was the artist’s only reply: “It is true that I will never be able to do justice to angelical beauty, but I have seen the devil in the face, and that’s how I’ve painted him. Therefore, I won’t change a single thing.”

Needless to say, the mockery grew even more pronounced when Cardinal Pamphilii became Pope Innocent X.

ArtChurch HistoryHumanities
Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.