Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Let It Be: The Annunciation In Medieval And Renaissance Christian Art

Francisco de Zurbarán, The Annunciation, 1650, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA

Middle Ages

Let It Be: The Annunciation In Medieval And Renaissance Christian Art

Religious themes in art have prevailed throughout time. Whether it is Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism – being able to visually interact (through images or text) with the religious messages is an important aspect to many religious followers around the globe, and throughout history. Furthermore, The Annunciation in Medieval and Renaissance Christian art is evident of this idea.

Art and the Church:

The early artistic movements centered around the Church: This was for many reasons; but, to speak simply, it was partly because the church had pockets deep enough to fund this, therefore being in control of creating the narrative. (Once art became more available to the public outside of the church walls and humanism began to grow, religious themes were slowly mixed with secular art). The visual narrative helped the church to bring in non-believers and followers, alike, who may not have had access to the Biblical texts or even knew how to read Latin. (More people meant more money for the Catholic Church because they could collect money from selling “indulgences,” a way for the people to pay their way out of their sins).

Annunciation in Medieval

Simone Martini, detail of text in the Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus, 1333, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Religiously themed artworks – ranging from Dürer’s engravings of Adam and Eve, to Medieval representations of David or Christ on mosaics and tomb walls, to Giotto’s Biblical narrative (one of my personal favorites!) in the Scrovegni Chapel – physically represent the array of Biblical figures and allow us to possibly connect, spiritually, to a higher being.

Durer Adam Eve annunciation in medieval and renaissance christian art

Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1504, The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, USA


 

Lunette of the Good Shepherd, ca. 386-452 AD, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy

 

Giotto di Bondone, a section of the narrative in Scrovegni Chapel, ca. 1303-1305, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

The Annunciation in Medieval and Renaissance Christian Art:


Besides the use of Biblical or religious figures, theology also came into play with Medieval and Renaissance artworks. Quite possibly one of the most popular themes of the 5th-17th centuries, short of Christ Himself, is The Annunciation. In Biblical scriptures, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that she will have a son, Jesus…something which she only briefly questions before going along with God’s plans for her life. Within this theme, artists utilized artistic liberty – triptychs, sculptures, and single-frame narratives are all available for our viewing from this period of time. While they all appear rather similar, each artist’s approach and technique brings something unique out in each one.

This version of The Annunciation is beautiful, is it not? Martini’s use of the color gold across the entire piece is perhaps meant to make the audience think of light, purity, and even hope….all three of which are symbolized in The Annunciation. Even Gabriel and Mary’s nimbus, or halo, shine with a mystical quality.

Simone Martini Annunciation

Simone Martini, segment of Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus, 1333, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy


As the years’ progress, there is a noticeable shift away from this extravagant use of gold yet maintaining the nimbus, which changes shape and levels of translucence.

Fra Angelico Annunciation

Fra Angelico, segment of the Annunciation, ca. 1433-34, The Diocesan Museum of Cortona, Cortona, Italy

 

Filippo Lippi, Annunciation, ca. 1445-50, Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome, Italy


The color blue symbolizes heavenly grace, which is why the Virgin Mary is usually depicted in robes of the color.

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Annunciation, 1474, The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

The nimbus becomes more ethereal, as opposed to the obvious disks above the heads of religious figures, such as saints, angels, and Christ.

Santi di Tito, The Annunciation, ca. 1580, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA

What is it that draws us to this theme?


Is it the mysticality surrounding Christ’s birth? The innocence of the angel Gabriel in juxtaposition to a young unwed, virgin mother? The simplicity of the scene(s)? The use of the color gold? Whatever it is, it has enthralled artists and art historians alike for almost 10 centuries, myself included. And although modern artists have succeeded in translating this theme into modern times, as seen below, the Medieval and Renaissance artists are still holding it down with some of the most amazing and beautiful representations of a religious text.

John William Waterhouse, The Annunciation, 1914, private collection

John William Waterhouse, The Annunciation, 1914, private collection

 

annunciation in medieval and renaissance christian art

Jacek Malczewski, Annunciation, 1923, National Museum, Warsaw, Poland

Find out more:

 

Art historian (art lover, artist), general nomad, writer, Mom, and a pilot wife. When she’s not spending all of her free time reading and writing YA novels, she can be found at her favorite coffee shop drinking coffee in all its various forms…right now, that’s an iced vanilla latte half sweet with almond milk…in case you were wondering. Favorite art style is impressionism. Favorite theme is the Annunciation.

Check out my site here: https://rachelmbwitte.wixsite.com/wittylife

Comments

More in Middle Ages

  • dailyart

    Isenheim Altarpiece: A Crucifixion Like No Other

    By

    There are real and fictional characters anchored in our collective unconscious. Their recurring presence in art history illustrates more than just our fascinations, fashions, or concerns. Studying them also provides an understanding of past and present societies—their problems, their traditions, and the historical context. The Image...

  • Dragon fresco cover Dragon fresco cover

    Animals

    Here Be Medieval Dragons

    By

    Dragons are everywhere in popular culture. People make movies about them, collect stuffed animals of them, and dress up as them for Halloween. They have been staples of every major fantasy series in the past century. Whether they’re cute or terrifying, everybody loves dragons! This isn’t...

  • Art Travels

    All These Knights in Shining Armour. Funerary Art of Medieval England

    By

    What do Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have in common with a tiny village in Lincolnshire, England? Say “Disney” and you get suspiciously close to “d’Isigny”. And there it is, the connection we are looking for. When in the late 1940s, famous film producer Walt Disney...

  • The Hyde Collection angel cover The Hyde Collection angel cover

    Middle Ages

    “Angel with Attitude”. Grumpy Angel from The Hyde Collection

    By

    Angel is a painting by Niccolò di Ser Sozzo, c. 1350, owned by The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY. This is an unusual depiction of an angel with her* arms crossed. She’s not the serene and heavenly figure you would expect; instead, she seems strangely...

  • Medieval bestiary Hydrus cover Medieval bestiary Hydrus cover

    Animals

    The Medieval Bestiary – Cute, Quirky, and Weird Animals

    By

    Of all the medieval manuscripts, bestiaries are definitely the most fun. A medieval bestiary is a book about animals. It’s full of unusual information and charming illustrations about a variety of creatures. Bestiaries were based on an early Christian text called the Physiologus and works by...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy