Angel Delight – A Celestial Presence at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Do you fancy an other-worldly experience? Join us for Angel Day on Saturday 10th February 2018 at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

There will be singing workshops, the Interfaith Choir, live music, poetry, angel-related objects from the collection, art and craft activities, talks and storytelling. Drop-in for free.                  

The Glorification of the Virgin, c1515, by Albert Cornelis
The Glorification of the Virgin, c1515, by Albert Cornelis. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

But why angels?

It was the idea of the Interfaith Contact Group of Brighton & Hove (IFCG) who work to bring people of faith and non-faith together in harmony. The group are planning events throughout 2018 to emphasise similarities between faiths by using the common link of angels. There is a long history of angelic messengers or saviours appearing in different mythologies and cultures, such as ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman, or in faiths such as Christianity, Baha’i, Islam and Judaism.

Angels are even name-checked in the natural world. My Natural Science colleague, Grace, introduced me to the adorable angel sea-slug.

angel sea-slugs
To misquote Robbie Williams, I’m loving angel sea-slugs instead

                     

The IFCG will be launching their Angels in Our City competition and an Angel Trail at the museum on February 10th.

Early 20th century postcard that belonged
Early 20th century postcard that belonged
to the Stanford family of Preston Manor, Brighton. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

The trail will offer sightings of the celestial beings in Brighton and Hove in the form of stained-glass windows in churches, such as St Michael & All Angels, murals, statues and art works. But can any be found in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery?

The Guardian Angel, print, c1805, by James Gillray
The Guardian Angel, print, c1805, by James Gillray. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

There must be an angel…
As a Collection Assistant I often source objects from our collections for events and talks but I doubted that there would be many suitable examples for Angel Day. Paintings and prints were the most obvious areas but surprisingly I found over 100 references to the winged-ones in our collections – and it was a very mixed assortment indeed!

  • Commemorative ceramics, figurines, medallions and a Sylvia Pankhurst tea set, with an angel emblem, in Decorative Art
  • Angel wings and vest in Costume
  • Religious paintings and icons, caricatures, prints by Albrecht Durer, an oil by Glyn Philpot and a self-portrait by Alison Lapper in Fine Art
  • Military badges and medals, postcards and Victorian mourning cards in Local History & Archaeology
  • Angel-wing shells, an angel shark and a sun angel-bird in Natural Science
  • Christmas decorations, children’s books, Victorian Christmas cards and even a Heartstring-Angel Barbie in Toys, Media and Film
  • A silk cloth with religious scenes from China and a Lithograph Print from Arctic Canada in World Art.

Some of these objects will be putting in a celestial appearance on Angel Day, upstairs in Museum Lab.                                              

An angel watches over Queen Victoria’s royal children while they sleep. Earthenware figure group from the Willett collection, 1845
An angel watches over Queen Victoria’s royal children while they sleep. Earthenware figure group from the Willett collection, 1845.Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

I also discovered that we have seven angel-themed objects on long-term display in Brighton Museum. These will be highlighted for a children’s trail on the day. There are three 19th century Staffordshire figurines in the Willett Gallery, a Minton flask, 1876, in the 20th Century gallery (well, it is decorated with Cupid, who almost counts as an angel) the Arctic print in the World Art gallery, Angel in Town, 2008, by Suvinai Ashoona, and two paintings, The Glorification of the Virgin, c1515, Albert Cornelis, on the staircase; and Angel of the Annunciation, 1925, in the Glyn Philpot display in the Fine Art gallery. Jenny Lund, Curator of Fine Art, will be giving a bite-size talk about this work on the day, between 12.30 and 1pm.

Angel of the Annunciation,1925, by Glyn Philpot
Angel of the Annunciation,1925, by Glyn Philpot. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

See if you can find any more angels at Brighton Museum and beyond!

Lucy Faithful, Collection Assistant. With thanks to Rev Anthea Ballam, Interfaith Minister, for information.