The Wounded Angel is one of the most recognizable works by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg. It was a source of strength to the artist as he was being treated for tubercular meningitis at Deaconess Hospital in Kallio, Helsinki.
Numerous interpretations have offered for the deeply enigmatic painting. The Ateneum art museum reads it as a comment on “The vulnerability of life and ideals, as well as the proximity of death and the helplessness of man,” observing that “The procession of a black-skinned boy can be interpreted as a symbol of death. A humanly depicted angel reflects the fragility of ideals. The boy running behind looks appealingly at us and shows that the subject of the board applies to each of us.” The angel has also been interpreted as a symbol of faith, of Finland under Russian rule, and as a metaphor for Simberg’s ailment. Simberg himself believed that meaning was in the eye of the beholder, and that whatever response the artwork evoked in the viewer was as valid as any other.
Together with The Garden of Death, a version of The Wounded Angel is one of two frescos by Simberg adorning Tampere Cathedral in Tampere, Finland; a Lutheran church designed in the National Romantic style by Lars Sonck and built between 1902 and 1907. It was voted Finland’s “national painting” in 2006.