As some of you are already aware, much of what has defined the aesthetic qualities and attributes of the Seraphim angels has been in Renaissance art. In this article we will briefly explore three of the most influential Renaissance artworks featuring the Seraphim angels. These three Seraphim depictions along with other lesser known pieces, are likely the driving force behind most contemporary ideas of what the Seraphim looked like. You can see the influence within Japanese angel character art, business logos, cartoons, however without knowing the art's true inspiration, one might conclude that it has been thought up recently. In fact I would venture to say that almost all contemporary art depicting the Seraphim has heavy Renaissance influences. I actually go out of my way to find Seraphim artworks that are completely uninfluenced by these much older forces, and although they do exist, they are very few in number, and hard to find.
The first heavily influential Seraphim depiction, would be the 14th century illuminated manuscript created by Petites Heures de Jean de Berry. This illustration features the Seraphim surrounding God's throne, exactly in the same fashion that Isaiah described them in his vision. The illustration shows only two Seraphim angels, with God firmly seated in his throne behind them, slightly elevated. Isaiah never mentioned how many Seraphim he saw, all we know for sure is that there were more than one. So with that in mind, the illustration might be somewhat inline with Isaiah's true revelation. The only deviation that I noticed in this particular illustration, is that the Seraphim are not covering their faces with one set of of their wings, as mentioned in Biblical scripture. I have seen greeting cards, product branding, company logos, and a whole assortment of Seraphim memorabilia based largely on this particular work of art.
The second ground breaking Seraphim depiction, I would say is the fresco of St. Francis' vision of a Seraph angel. This beautiful painting was created by the world renown Giotto di Bondone, a master of the Italian Renaissance. In this artwork, there is only one Seraph angel hovering far above in the sky, with St. Francis kneeling on the ground and looking up at the heavenly creature. The actual angel in this painting looks very similar to the depiction within the illuminated manuscript by Petites Heures de Jean de Berry. You can only see the angels upper body, with their legs and feet completely covered by one set of wings. Again deviating from Biblical scripture, the Seraph isn't covering it's face with one set of wings, they are simply folded back behind the angel's head. The beautiful painting also has hints of Christianity within it, as the angel has his arms stretched out similar to the crucifixion posture of Jesus Christ himself.
The third Seraphim artwork that I consider to be extremely influential, is the painting entitled Madonna in Glory with Seraphim. This beautiful piece was created by Sandro Botticelli, another Italian painter that helped drive the Early Renaissance. In this piece the Virgin Mary is seated, while holding the infant Jesus in her arms. In the background, Seraphim angels form an arch around the silhouette of Mary. What is interesting about this piece, is that we can already see some heavy blending between Seraphim angels and putti angels, which are more commonly known as cherubs. In this painting the angels have six wings and the face of an infant. Biblically speaking, this is sort of a tragedy, because it's what started all of the modern day confusion regarding Seraphim, Cherubim, and putti angels. Always remember that the Seraphim and Cherubim were never described in the Bible as being infant like, this is a flawed Renaissance influence.