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Archangel Gabriel Weathervane
Artist unidentified

Location: United States

Date: c. 1840

Materials: Paint on sheet metal

Dimensions: 35 × 32 1/2 × 1 1/4"

Credit: Gift of Adele Earnest

Accession Number: 1963.1.1

Photo credit: John Parnell

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Description

The origin of this weathervane is uncertain, but it probably was created about 1840 somewhere in the countryside of the northeastern United States. The weathervanes that graced the steeples of early American churches were most often in the form of openwork banners, arrows, or roosters, but winged figures of the archangel Gabriel, trumpet in hand, also had a place high above northeastern towns and villages. The Index of American Design, for example, records Gabriel vanes on the steeples of the 1814 Baptist church in Whiting, Vermont, and of the 1840 Universalist church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The placement of weathervanes depicting the archangel Gabriel on church steeples is directly related to Christian tradition. As the divine herald and trumpeting angel of biblical lore, Gabriel is an interpreter of dreams (Dan. 8:16, 9:21) and a messenger of great tidings (Luke 1:19, 26–27). According to popular belief, he is also the harbinger of the Millennium, the thousand-year period of peace and justice referred to in chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation, which Christians associate with the Last Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ.

The 1840s were a time of Millennial speculation and religious revival in the United States. The followers of William Miller (1782–1849), a farmer-turned-preacher from upstate New York, calculated that the thousand-year period would begin in 1843 or 1844. We have no record of the artist who created this figure, but it is likely that he intended his work to reflect the prophetic tradition. Later in the nineteenth century, mass-produced figures of Gabriel or winged cherubs were included in the catalogs of weathervane manufacturers such as L.W. Cushing & Sons of Waltham, Massachusetts, but this sheet-metal silhouette is clearly the work of an individual maker.

Gerard C. Wertkin, "Archangel Gabriel Weathervane," in Stacy C. Hollander, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 331.


Archangel Gabriel Weathervane
Date: c. 1840
Artist:
Dimensions: 35 × 32 1/2 × 1 1/4"
Materials: Paint on sheet metal
Credit Line: Gift of Adele Earnest
Place/Region:
Accession Number: 1963.1.1
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