Jean Francois Millet - The Angelus Ringing

by Alexandra Tuschka


The bells of the church have rung, man and woman humbly bow their heads for the Angelus prayer. The potato harvest must wait and now stands still for a moment. The Angelus ringing, which should be heard here, is rung three times a day. Christians then turn to a prayer that recalls the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary. In this painting it seems to be evening - the sun is setting, bathing the landscape in a mild light. In the foreground, both figures appear almost monumental.

The working tools are clearly visible: a pitchfork, a basket and a wheelbarrow. Earth and potatoes lie at the front edge of the picture. The contrast between the work and the pause, the connection between the inner and outer world is clearly expressed here. The intimacy of the scene is supported by the small format of 66 x 55 centimeters.

Millet himself said of the work in 1865: "When I painted the Angelus, I thought of how my grandmother used to tell us to pause when we were working in the fields and the bells were ringing, to pray to the angel of the Lord for the dear dead". In this way he also refuted a thesis that Dalí would later express, according to which the two sitters had buried their dead child and were weeping. The work received special notoriety when in 1932 a psychopath rushed into the Louvre to destroy the most famous painting there. He hesitated - is it the Mona Lisa, The Embarkation to Cythera or, after all, The Angelus Ringing?


Millet himself came from a peasant family, but was not himself a practicing Catholic. His paintings often have peasant life as their subject - always through a loving and respectful gaze. During his lifetime, however, these motifs had little commercial success. 5 years after his death in 1875, however, a veritable run on his works began.


Jean Francois Millet - The Angelus Ringing

Oil on canvas, 1857-1859, 53.3 x 66 cm, Musée d'Orsay in Paris