Lucifer and the Archetype of Rebellion
Since remote times, full of beauty and wisdom, the fallen angel has been an inspiring figure in art.
You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. […] You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till wickedness was found in you. […] Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, the Devil, are some of the names of this mythical character, who is, among other things, an archetype of ambition and evil. Why, then, is there such a deep attraction to him?
Lucifer, literally “carrier of light”, already existent in Roman mythology, was the name used to refer to Venus, the morning star that can be seen close to the horizon before dawn in certain seasons. This is a terrestrial star, closer than any other to the world of man. In the Christian tradition, Lucifer is a fallen angel, one of God’s beloved sons, the brother of other angels, until his beauty and pride filled him with evil and his creator decided to make an example out of him and thus banished him from Heaven, condemning him to Hell.
In modernity, and specifically from the 17th century onwards, the figure of Lucifer began to undergo profound change. One of the artists that would play a key role in this transformation was the English poet John Milton, whose epic poem Paradise Lost, published in 1667, is starred by Satan. Milton’s Devil proved an odd combination since it portrayed that evil being which Christianity was more than familiar with, but presented as a rather ingenious, witty and beautiful being.
This tradition, or infatuation, would continue throughout England and the rest of Europe, by the hand of the greatest authors of the 19th century: Romanticism would find Lucifer extremely attractive and magnetic. Mephistopheles, in Goethe's Faust (1808), would also figure as a captivating character and (why not?), an appealing one.
The list of artists that portray Lucifer in this fashion is endless, and deserves its own books. Yet currently, in every artistic discipline, the Devil is present: from Roman Polanski’s films to countless musicals and songs (like the more obvious Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones). In this sense, the archetype and its seductive features would live on in figures closer to us like Lord Byron, or even James Dean.
The great manipulator, carrier of otherworldly beauty and mysterious, the Devil creates something similar to Prometheus. Both, the exiled angel and the legendary Greek titan (and their long list of heirs) are greatly rebellious figures —one of the most prominent characteristics of the Romantic spirit and of modernity. They are extremely brave and transgressive characters, capable of challenging the most powerful forces and the gods that rule the world.
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