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Eloa, Sister of the Angels

Joseph-Michel Pollet

(1814 - 1870) | D.868.3

Date : 1862 | Medium : Bronze

‘I love you. I'll go down. But what will Heaven say?’ (…) / Yet twice raising her faithless eyelid, / Looking around, irresolute yet, / She looked for her Heavens, which she could no longer see. / (…); “I thought I had saved you.” “No, it is I who am dragging you away.”’

These verses were written by Alfred de Vigny in 1823 as part of his poem Eloa or The Sister of the Angels, which was Joseph-Michel Pollet’s inspiration for this bronze sculpture dating from 1862. Eloa, angel of compassion, born of the tears shed by Christ upon the death of his friend Lazarus, is seduced by Satan, who lures her with his own tears. He takes her away, finally revealing himself as the disconsolate fallen angel.

The subject is romantic; the style equally so. Eloa’s contorted body shows her already submissive – seated in the lap of the devil – yet she retains the pose of the humble servant in prayer, her head turned away from Satan and looking up to Heaven. This is the dramatic moment in which Eloa abandons all hope and places all her faith in Heaven, swept away despite herself to the world of darkness. The emotion is accentuated by the total opposition of the two faces: the face of the fallen angel, resolute and sombre, is turned downwards, his windswept hair indicating that the pair are already falling, while Eloa’s face is turned to the sky, her eyes alone maintaining a connection with Heaven. It seems all hope is indeed lost: Satan has already enveloped the angel in mercy, clutching her with both hands and enclosing her in his wing. Yet a sense of calm emanates from the idealised rendering of these svelte, graceful bodies and youthful features. A hint of eternity leads us to see the group as more than simply a scene from a poem; perhaps the allegory of Innocence stolen away by Pride.