Elijah and the angel (Elías y el ángel)

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Elijah and the angel (Elías y el ángel)
This tapestry is the smallest in size of the series, and represents one of the stories given as a precedent of the Eucharist: that of prophet Elijah and the angel. Its format is square, and the marks of Brussels –B▼B– and of the weaver –F•V•H– Frans van den Hecker appear on the lower selvage.

Elijah's prayer

Its aspect is similar to the piece ‘Harvesting manna’, even in size. One difference is that only two figures are represented: the prophet Elijah and the angel. The biblical tale (1 Kings 19, 1-8) is another precedent of the Eucharist. The prophet is fleeing after Queen Jezebel has condemned him to death. He falls exhausted and even asks God to take his life away. His prayer will not be granted; on the contrary, he receives the unexpected visit of an angel bringing him food: ‘He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water’. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you’. So he got up and ate and drank. 'Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God'.

The composition

Maybe because of the vertical format of the scene, but also to heighten the moment when the prophet receives the food, Rubens makes Elijah stand while the angel puts bread and a glass of water in his hands. Despite being weakened and discouraged through lack of food, the prophet appears as a muscular figure symbolizing how divine food is capable of strengthening man, in a clear portent of the Eucharist.

Series Apotheosis of the Eucharist

Model Cartoon copied from an original by Rubens

Manufacture Brussels. Manufacture by Frans van den Hecke. Mid-17th century

Fabric Silk and wool, 7/8 warps per cm

Size 408 x 410 cm

Location Church of San Millán de la Cogolla, Oncala (Soria)

Origin A donation by Bishop Juan Francisco Ximénez del Río, c. 1800

On display Hangs from the church’s crossing, to the left of the presbytery


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