Adoring Angel
Franz Ignaz Günther

ca. 1770

Limewood, remnants of old polychromy
Height 144 cm



The kneeling angel is leaning well forward from the waist, his hands crossed in front of his chest and his head bowed. A clear outline runs from his head, along his back and down to a fold of fabric sweeping out behind him. Over his left leg, his garment is parted in a slit which looks as if it has been cut into paper-thin fabric. In other places where the same garment is bunched up, it displays heavy, sharp-edged folds. The fabric, treated in such contradictory manners, provides only hints of the shape of the body beneath, as for instance where a fold suggests the outline of the right foot but, being turned under, cannot conceal it. Whereas in the Bible angels are sexless beings, in art they are depicted as warriors, girl angels or small male putti. Günther chooses not to assign his angel clearly to one sex, and combines feminine facial features with a slender male body.

Franz Ignaz Günther entered the workshop of the Munich sculptor Johann Baptist Straub (1704–1784) as an apprentice at the age of eighteen, and later was briefly employed in the Mannheim workshop of Johann Paul Egell (1691–1752), who was court sculptor to the Palatine electors. He completed a six-month course of training at the Academy in Vienna, passing with distinction, a result of which he was proud for the rest of his life. In late 1753 he settled in Munich, where in 1754 he was appointed court sculptor with special privileges. Günther is one of the most important German artists of the Enlightenment. In abandoning both the Baroque illusion of convincing physicality and the harmony between body and drapery, he was reflecting the Enlightenment’s theoretical discussion of art in his sculptures.