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Annunciation

Leonardo da Vinci

Annunciation

Leonardo da Vinci
  • Date: c.1472; Milan, Italy 
  • Style: Early Renaissance
  • Genre: religious painting
  • Media: oil, panel, tempera
  • Tag: Christianity, Annunciation, Virgin-Mary, angels-and-archangels
  • Dimensions: 217 x 98 cm
  • Order Oil Painting
    reproduction

Annunciation (ca. 1472) is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s earlier works, which was commissioned by the church of San Bartolomeo in Monte Oliveto. Leonardo painted with oil and tempera on wood, an untraditional choice since oil was usually used on canvas. From its rectangular shape and size, the painting was likely intended for the sacristy (a room where priests prepare for service and objects of worship are held) of the newly renovated church. Prior to 1869, Annunciation was attributed to Florentine painters like Domenico Ghirlandaio and Andrea Verrocchio. However, radiographic and spectrographic tests as well as newly discovered preparatory sketches indicate that Leonardo painted Annunciation while he was training in the workshop of Andrea Verrocchio. Various sketches by Leonardo, Lily (1473-1475), The Study of a Sleeve (1473), The Study of a Drapery of a Figure Kneeling (1473) and The Study of Drapery of a Seated Figure (1473) demonstrate his extensive preparatory work for Annunciation.

The depicted scene is based on the New Testament: the Angel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary announcing to her that she was chosen by God to be the mother of his Son. Leonardo demonstrates innovation and creativity in his composition, which differs from the traditional depictions of the Annunciations, such as Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation (1445) and Fra Angelico Annunciation (ca. 1435), that portray an interior setting with a partial view of a landscape. Leonardo’s Annunciation is in an open courtyard of a Renaissance palace with a Tuscan landscape and seascape in the background. The landscape was painted in the sfumato technique, which softens the transition between colors, so the human eye does not perceive boundaries and lines. Through this technique, Leonardo captured the diffusion of air changes, giving the illusion of a continuous flow of air and mist.

Leonardo carefully conceived each element in the Annunciation, making complex connections to the life and death of Christ. For instance, the carpet of spring flowers relates to the religious scene: the lily whites, daisies, white champions, morning glories and lavender all symbolize the Virgin’s innocence and purity. Other flowers, such as irises, passion flowers and myositis are associated with her feeling of love and mourning. Another important element in Annunciation is the marble lectern placed between the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel. The lectern is a combination of a Renaissance baby cradle and a sarcophagus, thus it symbolizes both the birth and death of Christ. This is also seen in other paintings like Raphael’s The Holy Family of Francis I (1518) and Lorenzo Lotto’s Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Nicholas of Tolentino (1524). Leonardo decorated the lectern with classical motifs like acanthus leaves, garlands, scallop shells and lion’s paws. In its design, the lectern is reminiscent of the sarcophagus designed by Verrocchio for Giovanni de’ Medici (1472) at the Old Sacristy in the Church of St. Lorenzo in Florence. By placing the lectern in a blooming meadow, Leonardo adds another layer of meaning: the lectern alludes to a mortuary and Christ’s death, while the flowers symbolize the present moment and his life.

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Annunciation is a painting by the Italian Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio, dating from circa 1472–1475. It is housed in the Uffizi gallery of Florence, Italy.

The subject matter is drawn from Luke 1.26-39 and depicts the angel Gabriel, sent by God to announce to a virgin, Mary, that she would miraculously conceive and give birth to a son, to be named Jesus, and to be called "the Son of God" whose reign would never end. The subject was very popular for artworks and had been depicted many times in the art of Florence, including several examples by the Early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico. The details of its commission and its early history remain obscure.

In 1867, following Gustav Waagen methods, Baron Liphart identified this Annunciation, newly arrived in the Uffizi Gallery from a convent near Florence, as by the young Leonardo, still working in the studio of his master Verrocchio. The painting has since been attributed to different artists, including Leonardo and Verrocchio's contemporary Domenico Ghirlandaio. It was more recently determined to be a collaboration between Leonardo and his master Verrocchio, with whom Leonardo collaborated on the Baptism of Jesus.

The angel holds a Madonna lily, a symbol of Mary's virginity and of the city of Florence. It is supposed that Leonardo originally copied the wings from those of a bird in flight, but they have since been lengthened by a later artist.

When the Annunciation came to the Uffizi in 1867, from the Olivetan monastery of San Bartolomeo, near Florence, it was ascribed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was, like Leonardo, an apprentice in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1869, Karl Eduard von Liphart, the central figure of the German expatriate art colony in Florence, recognized it as a youthful work by da Vinci, one of the first attributions of a surviving work to the youthful Leonardo. Since then a preparatory drawing for the angel's sleeve has been recognized and attributed to Leonardo.

Verrocchio used lead-based paint and heavy brush strokes. He left a note for Leonardo to finish the background and the angel. Leonardo used light brush strokes and no lead. When the Annunciation was x-rayed, Verrocchio's work was evident while Leonardo's angel was invisible.

The marble table, in front of the Virgin, probably quotes the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de' Medici in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, which Verrocchio had sculpted during this same period. Some immature hesitancies are usually noted, especially the Virgin's ambiguous spatial relation to the desk and the marble on which it rests.

On March 12, 2007, the painting was at the center of a furor between Italian citizens and the Minister of Culture, who decided to place the picture on loan to exhibit in Japan.

This is a part of the Wikipedia article used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). The full text of the article is here →


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The sacristy of the chuarch of San Bartolomeo a Monteoliveto in Florence

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