Angels Singing from Shared Songbooks
In the 16th century there was a bit of a vogue for populating the upper region of a painting with angels in Heaven singing from a shared songbook. This way of picturing Heaven is seen a number of 16th-century and later images. The books never seem quite as massive as the shared graduals from which monks sang during sacred services, but they surely would have looked familiar to monastic viewers. The device seems to be restricted to more joyful subjects, such as these:
Bernardino Zenale, The Madonna Adoring the Child with Musical Angels, circa 1500-1510. See the description page.
Ambrogio Bergognone, Assumption of the Virgin The Metropolitan Museum states that this work ‘dates from the early sixteenth century. See the description page.
Raffaele Sanzio, Saint Cecilia, 1514. See the description page.
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), The Vocation of Aloysius Gonzaga, 1650. See the description page.

Prepared in 2022 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.