This is how it went:
Not long ago, I happened to see someone online complaining about how some authors of paranormal fiction have the nerve to describe angelic-type characters as having non-white wings (brightly colored or brown like a bird’s or whatever) when, in the opinion of that reviewer, white is the only color any myths or art or whatnot ever suggested angels can have for their wings.
So I left a comment that, as far as I ever noticed when studying art history, white seemed to be the exception rather than the rule. ‘You’re more likely to see an old painting of an angel with wing feathers like a pheasant’s than you are to see one with all-white wings.’
Of course, that led to the inevitable, ‘You’re wrong! I read more paranormal than you do [I don’t doubt it] so I know more than you do about what angels looked like in Midevil art, so I know that most people who write paranormal are Doing It Wrong.’
(Have I mentioned lately how much I hate it when someone spells medieval as midevil… and why I have such a big problem with it? It’s not only correct grammar than can save lives, kids.)
You’ll need to click on the image below to see it in anything approaching full size: it’s huge, so do not try this on your smartphone. It’s a composite I threw together of a few (dozen) angel images from medieval and Renaissance art, all of them showing colorful wings. There’s an Archangel Michael with the most fabulous rainbow feathers (and a Gabriel — I think — who makes Mike there look kinda drab), and several ladies with pheasant-brown wings, and a few that look distinctly like peacocks’, and some with plain green or blue or tan or red or even black (on cherub-types in some picture about the birth of the Virgin, of all things!)… You get the point. There are some with white plus a color, but none with entirely white. Not that I ever specialized in studying Christian art (ick! *shudder*), but as far as I can tell, the all-white wings on angels is an invention of the Victorian era (which, as you ought to know, is a couple centuries and change after the end of the Renaissance), or whenever someone decided that angels who beat up demons or wield flaming swords was just Not Appropriate, so they nerfed everything and made angels cute and pastel-colored and boring…
…And since I’m going on and on about this sort of art anyway, I’d like to address a mistake I saw repeatedly in how some of these pictures were labeled: If the guy fighting a dragon has wings, it’s the Archangel Michael; Saint George doesn’t have wings. Shouldn’t be that hard to figure out… (I still don’t know if, in the mythology these pictures belong to, saints outrank archangels, or if it’s the other way around. If anyone knows, please tell me. I kinda need this trivia-bit to prevent an argument… or at least redirect it, and Google searches have proven useless.)
Yes, I do have a lot of free time on my hands lately… 🙂 I’m a copyeditor; November is my month off, while so many writers are frantically typing the first drafts of their Very Small Novels. (The clone is getting close to completion of the first draft of his not-small novel, so I’d need to be ready for the first round of editing on that, preparing it for beta readers — volunteer now and avoid the rush! — even if I did have the usual work load from other editing jobs.)