The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel interrupts Mary at her devotions and announces, "You shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Jesus." (Luke 1:31) In an attitude of humility, Mary sits on the plain tiled floor, eyes downcast, and raises her hands in surprise. Gabriel, dressed in white with multi-colored wings, kneels and points towards the circular window above, indicating the presence of God. With his other hand he draws back the curtain of the canopy. Dieric Bouts painted the scene in a lucid and spatially convincing setting. The room at the left is simply described: a barrel ceiling, a marble column with two steps leading up to the room, and a stained glass window. A mood of solemnity, suitable for prayer, pervades the scene. In this somber setting Bouts's use of bright red for the drapery seems unusual. It may signify the Passion, forecasting the death of Christ, or it may be purely decorative since Bouts used this color in other compositions. The Annunciation belongs to a set of five paintings that originally constituted a polyptych representing scenes from the life of Jesus Christ. It was probably the upper left panel of an altarpiece that included paintings of the Adoration of the Magi, Entombment (upper right), Resurrection (lower right), and perhaps the Crucifixion in the center.

Distemper on linen (about 1450-1455)

by Dieric Bouts (Netherlandish, about 1415-1475)

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