Luce Foundation Center for American Art
The Angel Israfel
oil on paperboard
14 1/8 x 17 in. (36.0 x 43.3 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Claude Buck
|"In Heaven a spirit doth dwell 'Whose heart-strings are a lute'; None sing so wildly well As the angel Israfel, And the giddy stars (so legends tell), Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell Of his voice, all mute. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . If I could dwell Where Israfel Hath dwelt, and he where I, He might not sing so wildly well A mortal melody, While a bolder note than this might swell From my lyre within the sky." Excerpted from Edgar Allan Poe, "Israfel" (1831)|
This painting shows Israfel, one of the four archangels in Islam. He is usually portrayed in Oriental dress holding a trumpet, which followers believe he will sound on the Day of Resurrection. Here, Claude Buck depicted Israfel as an apparently female angel in a white gown. The painting may have been inspired by the poem "Israfel," by Edgar Allan Poe. Buck was very interested in Poe and created many paintings based on him and his work. The vision of heaven described in the poem with its "giddy stars" and moon that "blushes with love" may have inspired Buck's swirling sky and glowing red moon.