May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Archangel Gabriel Inn Sign

Artist unidentified Messengers

Guilford Center, New York


Paint on wood

24 x 46 1/2 x 18"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of Alice M. Kaplan, American Folk Art Museum trustee (1977–1989), 2001.3.1

Photo by John Parnell

Archangel Gabriel Inn Sign

Early American visual culture is steeped in representations of millennial ideas, and it was not uncommon for a figure of Gabriel—in Christian tradition the herald of the Second Coming—to appear as a weathervane on the steeples of churches.The iconography of the prophetic Gabriel is often related to the mythological figure of Fame, a being of indeterminate gender who also blows a trumpet.

The Archangel Gabriel appeared in secular settings, as well. For more than a century, this gentle carving welcomed visitors to the Angel Inn in Guilford Center. Located on a busy stagecoach route, the original frame structure was built by Thomas Abbey around 1806. At various times it also served as a restaurant, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and even a bordello. It is not known exactly when this Archangel Gabriel was carved, but in 1830 the front of the inn was altered under the ownership of Dauphin Murray, at which time the sign was placed under a high pediment that newly crowned the entranceway.

Stacy C. Hollander, “Archangel Gabriel Inn Sign,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.