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San Miguel Expelling Satan from Heavan, 1700-1750

Unidentified artist
San Miguel Expelling Satan from Heavan, 1700-1750
Guatemala or Central America
oil on canvas
47 x 35 inches (119.38 x 88.9 cm)
Acquired with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony J. Unruh

The expulsion of Satan was a common topic in Spanish Colonial art because of its obvious parallels with Christianization efforts to turn Indian populations away from their traditional belief that the supreme deity was the earth in the form of a dragon. In this image, San Miguel raises his sword arm to strike another blow at the draconic Satan. Dynamic visual tension is created between the Y shape of the angel’s wings and body, and the strong, dark dragon’s body. San Miguel’s armor and fine costume are thrust forward, but the curved, shiny surface of the shield, turned to one side, combines with circles in the dragon’s tail and neck to create an asymmetrical triangle that constantly vies for the viewer’s attention.

The swirl of the angel’s cloak, the bright gold touches on the costume elements, and the delicate lace are typical features of Spanish Colonial art, rendered here in an accomplished and confident manner. No effort was spared to highlight the importance of San Miguel and the danger posed by the dragon’s huge claws, fiery breath, and traditional meaning.