The indecency and impropriety of painting bearded angels
Year mention: 1649
Inadequate manner

Depicting angels with a beard is incorrect

Pacheco, Francisco
Abraham and the three Angels, 1576, Artist: Juan Fernández de Navarrete, c.1526-1579, Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Ireland

Regarding the painting of angels, Pacheco lists a series of visual elements that cannot be included in the iconography of angels, one of them being the depiction of angels with beards. An example of such criticism was the artwork of Juan Fernndez de Navarrete (1526-1579) in which he represented the three similar angels visiting Abraham. Although the scriptures and iconographic tradition associate this scene with the figure of angels, it may be that Pacheco has ignored to consider that these figures could represent not the ordinary figure of angels, but the figure of Jesus Christ repeated in the three characters (similar facial features and just one halo) since this passage of the Old Testament with the Three Angels forms is seen as a prefiguration of the Christian Trinity.

“It is not right on any occasion to paint bearded angels who, concerning their being and nature, say indecency and impropriety. I was very offended to see the three painted by El Mudo, who hosted Abraham, in the porter’s lodge of San Lorenzo el Real (rightly praised by P. Ciguenza for their resemblance to each other in faces and clothing), but the painter did not have it in dressing them in purple, Nazarene clothes, when they should have looked like pilgrims’ costumes, and much less in painting them with beards”.

“No es bien en ocasion alguna pintar los angeles barbados que, respeto de su ser y naturaleza, dice indecencia e impropiedad. A mí me ofendió muncho ver los tres que pintó el Mudo, que hospedó Abrahám, en la portería de San Lorenzo el Real (alabados, con razón, del P. Ciguenza por la semejanza que tienen entre sí en rostros y vestiduras), pero no la tuvo el pintor en vestirlos con ropas moradas, nazarenas,debiendo parecer en traje de peregrinos y, mucho menos, en pintarlos con barba”.

Quoted Authorities

Molanus, book 3,ch. 41

Model to follow

Raphael, Saint Michael, 1504-1505
Pellegrino Tibaldi, Saint Michael, 16th century (no reproduction)
Francisco Pacheco, Title Unknown, 17th century (no reproduction)

Abraham, Angel, Genesis, man, Old Testament, patriarch, three, Trinity, visiting

impropiedad, Indecencia
Fernández de Navarrete, Juan

Date mention

Date artwork

H 287 cm, W 238 cm,
Historical Location

Madrid, Guest-Room of the monastery of the Escorial


Current Location
Dublin, National Gallery
Type of Object

Media Materials
oil on canvas

Measurements H 287 cm, W 238 cm,

Iconclass Number

Pacheco, El Arte de la pintura (1649), book 3, ch.11, 568-589

Pacheco 1990, 568, n. 22; Pacheco 1990, 570, n. 23;

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