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CHERUBINI

the artist tries to represent—the supernatural steeds upon which Yahweh issues forth to interfere in human affairs. In a poetic theophany (Ps. xviii. 10) we find “upon a cherub” parallel to “upon the wings of the wind” (cp. Isa. xix. 1; Ps. civ. 3). One naturally infers from this that the “cherub” was sometimes viewed as a bird. For the clouds, mythologically, are birds. “The Algonkins say that birds always make the winds, that they create the waterspouts, and that the clouds are the spreading and agitation of their wings.” “The Sioux say that the thunder is the sound of the cloud-bird flapping his wings.” If so, Ps. xviii. 10 is a solitary trace of the archaic view of the cherub. The bird, however, was probably a mythic, extra-natural bird. At any rate the cherub was suggested by and represents the storm-cloud, just as the sword in Gen. iii. 24 corresponds to the lightning. In Ezek. i. the four visionary creatures are expressly connected with a storm-wind, and a bright cloud (ver. 4). Elsewhere (xli. 18) the cherub has two faces (a man’s and a bird’s), but in i. 10 and x. 14 each cherub has four faces, a view tastefully simplified in the Johannine Apocalypse (Rev. iv. 7).

It is best, however, to separate Ezekiel from other writers, since he belongs to what may be called a great mythological revival. Probably his cherubim are a modification of older ones, which may well have been of a more sober type. His own accounts, as we have seen, vary. Probably the cherub has passed through several phases. There was a mythic bird-cherub, and then perhaps a winged animal-form, analogous to the winged figures of bulls and lions with human faces which guarded Babylonian and Assyrian temples and palaces. Another analogy is furnished by the winged genii represented as fertilizing the sacred tree—the date-palm (Tylor); here the body is human, though the face is sometimes that of an eagle. It is perhaps even more noteworthy that figures thought to be cherubs have been found at Zenjirli, within the ancient North Syrian kingdom of Ya’di (see Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients, pp. 350 f.); we may combine this with the fact that one of the great gods of this kingdom was called Rakab’el or Rekūb’el (also perhaps Rakab or Rekūb). A Sabaean (S. Arabian) name Karab’el also exists. The kerūbim might perhaps be symbolic representatives of the god Rakab’el or Rekūb’el, probably equivalent to Hadad, whose sacred animal was the bull. That the figures symbolic of Rakab or Hadad were compounded or amalgamated by the Israelites with those symbolic of Nergal (the lion-god) and Ninib (the eagle-god), is not surprising.

See further “Cherubim,” in Ency. Bib. and Hast. D. B.; Cheyne, Genesis; Tylor, Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. xii. 383 ff.; Zimmern, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, pp. 529 f., 631 f.; Dibelius, Die Lade Jahves (1906), pp. 72-86.  (T. K. C.) 


CHERUBINI, MARIA LUIGI CARLO ZENOBIO SALVATORE (1760–1842), Italian musical composer, was born at Florence on the 14th of September 1760, and died on the 15th of March 1842 in Paris. His father was accompanist (Maestro al Cembalo) at the Pergola theatre. Cherubini himself, in the preface of his autograph catalogue of his own works, states, “I began to learn music at six and composition at nine, the former from my father, the latter from Bartolomeo and Alessandro Felici, and, after their death, from Bizzarri and J Castrucci.” By the time he was sixteen he had composed a great deal of church music, and in 1777 he went to Bologna, where for four years he studied under Sarti. This deservedly famous master well earned the gratitude which afterwards impelled Cherubini to place one of his double choruses by the side of his own Et Vitam Venturi as the crown of his Treatise on Counterpoint and Fugue, though the juxtaposition is disastrous for Sarti. But besides grounding Cherubini in the church music for which he had early shown so special a bent, Sarti also trained him in dramatic composition; sometimes, like the great masters of painting, entrusting his pupil with minor parts of his own works. From 1780 onwards for the next fourteen years dramatic music occupied Cherubini almost entirely. His first complete opera, Quinto Fabio, was produced in 1780, and was followed in 1782 by Armida, Adriano in Siria, and other works. Between 1782 and 1784 the successful production of five operas in four different towns must have secured Cherubini a dignified position amongst his Italian contemporaries; and in 1784 he was invited to London to produce two works for the Italian opera there, one of which, La Finta Principessa, was favourably received, while the other, Giulio Sabino, was, according to a contemporary witness, “murdered” by the critics.

In 1786 he left London for Paris, which became his home after a visit to Turin in 1787–1788 on the occasion of the production there of his Ifigenia in Aulide. With Cherubini, as with some other composers first trained in a school where the singer reigned supreme, the influence of the French dramatic sensibility prpved decisive, and his first French opera, Démophon (1788), though not a popular success, already marks a departure from the Italian style, which Cherubini still cultivated in the pieces he introduced into the works of Anfossi, Paisiello and Cimarosa, produced by him as director of the Italian opera in Paris (established in 1789). As in Paris Gluck realized his highest ambitions, and even Rossini awoke to a final effort of something like dramatic life in Guillaume Tell, so in Paris Cherubini became a great composer. If his melodic invention had been as warm as Gluck’s, his immensely superior technique in every branch of the art would have made him one of the greatest composers that ever lived. But his personal character shows in quaint exaggeration the same asceticism that in less sour and more negative form deprives even his finest music of the glow of that lofty inspiration that fears nothing.

With Lodoiska (1791) the series of Cherubim’s masterpieces begins, and by the production of Médée (1797) his reputation was firmly established. The success of this sombre classical tragedy, which shows Cherubini’s genius in its full power, is an honour to the Paris public. If Cherubini had known how to combine his high ideals with an urbane tolerance of the opinions of persons of inferior taste, the severity of his music would not have prevented his attaining the height of prosperity. But Napoleon Bonaparte irritated him by an enthusiasm for the kind of Italian music against which his whole career, from the time he became Sarti’s pupil, was a protest. When Cherubini said to Napoleon, “Citoyen Général, I perceive that you love only that music which does not prevent you thinking of your politics,” he may perhaps have been as firmly convinced of his own conciliatory manner as he was when many years afterwards he “spared the feelings” of a musical candidate by “delicately” telling him that he had “a beautiful voice and great musical intelligence, but was too ugly for a public singer.” Napoleon seems to have disliked opposition in music as in other matters, and the academic offices held by Cherubini under him were for many years far below his deserts. But though Napoleon saw no reason to conceal his dislike of Cherubini, his appointment of Lesueur in 1804 as his chapelmaster must not be taken as an evidence of his hostility. Lesueur was not a great genius, but, although recommended for the post by the retiring chapelmaster, Paesiello (one of Napoleon’s Italian favourites), he was a very meritorious and earnest Frenchman whom the appointment saved from starvation. Cherubini’s creative genius was never more brilliant than at this period, as the wonderful two-act ballet, Anacreon, shows; but his temper and spirits were not improved by a series of disappointments which culminated in the collapse of his prospects of congenial success at Vienna, where he went in 1805 in compliance with an invitation to compose an opera for the Imperial theatre. Here he produced, under the title of Der Wasserträger, the great work which, on its first production on the 7th of January 1801 (26 Nivôse, An 8) as Les Deux Journées, had thrilled Paris with the accents of a humanity restored to health and peace. It was by this time an established favourite in Austria. On the 25th of February Cherubini produced Faniska, but the war between Austria and France had broken out immediately after his arrival, and public interest in artistic matters was checked by the bombardment and capitulation of Vienna. Though the meeting between Cherubini and the victorious Napoleon was not very friendly, he was called upon to direct the music at Napoleon’s soirées at Schönbrunn. But this had not been his object in coming to Vienna, and he soon returned to a retired and gloomy life in Paris.