Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Anne H. Muraoka

Committee Member

Brett Bebber

Committee Member

Andrew Kissel


During the Italian Renaissance, images of angels and of the Virgin Mary were incredibly commonplace and were often used to denote the Virgin in her role as prophetess. The Virgin was often shown surrounded by angels in the background or flanking her on either side. However, in the fifteenth century, a motif appeared where an angel head was depicted on either the Virgin’s diadem or on her chest as a decorative brooch. This specific motif only appeared in images of the Virgin and the Christ Child. It was also only employed by Florentine artists and began with the Florentine sculptor, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, better known as Donatello. It branched out to his circle of followers and Florentine artists including the painter, architect, and sculptor Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, famously referred to as simply, Michelangelo. This thesis will argue that this specific use of the angel heads was meant to reflect Franciscan doctrine, the Franciscan’s special devotion to the Virgin, and the Order’s history combined with early Christian theology. The identification of these angel heads as Franciscan in origin will also establish the under acknowledged role of the Franciscan Order within the life and work of Michelangelo.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).