From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Revision as of 19:26, 12 May 2012
Le génie du mal (installed 1848) or The Genius of Evil, known informally in English as Lucifer or The Lucifer of Liège, is a religious sculpture executed in white marble by the Belgian artist Guillaume Geefs. Francophone art historians most often refer to the figure as an ange déchu, a "fallen angel." It is located within the elaborate pulpit (French chaire de vérité, "seat of truth") of St. Paul's Cathedral, Liège, and depicts a classically beautiful man in his physical prime, chained, seated, and nearly nude but for drapery gathered over his thighs, his full length ensconced within a mandorla of bat wings. Geefs' work replaces an earlier sculpture created for the space by his younger brother Joseph Geefs, which was removed from the cathedral because of its distracting allure and "unhealthy beauty."
In the late 1980s, a photograph of Le génie du mal became a focal point of Himmelsweg, an art installation by the Liège-born artist Jacques Charlier on the theme of seductive evil and the danger of obscuring the memory of the Holocaust.
The sculpture places Lucifer in bondage, with his right ankle and left wrist chained. In 19th-century reinterpretations of ancient Greek and Christian myths, Lucifer was often cast as a Promethean figure, drawing on a tradition that the fallen angel was chained in Hell just as the Titan had been chained and tortured on the rock by Zeus: "The same Prometheus who is taken as an analogue of the crucified Christ is regarded also as a type of Lucifer," wrote Harold Bloom in remarks on Mary Shelley's 19th-century classic Frankenstein, subtitled The Modern Prometheus. The literature on the connection between Lucifer and Prometheus made in 19th-century art and literature is vast. The association of Lucifer with Prometheus and other mythological figures such as Loki was a particular feature of 19th-century theosophy and the esoteric writings of H.P. Blavatsky