Enigmatic Art: Antonello da Messina's Virgin Annunciate

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 10:58
Virgin Annunciate, Antonello da Messina

L'Annunciata - The Virgin Annunciate, oil on wood, by Antonello da Messina in the Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo.

This masterpiece by Antonello da Messina, probably painted in Sicily in 1476, shows Mary interrupted in her reading by the Angel of the Annunciation.

This painting has been the subject of investigation and studies of various kinds for years because it is considered "mysterious" – it is viewed as one of the most enigmatic paintings, and certainly one of the most significant, in the history of art.

The main striking element is that the painting is a representation of the Annunciation, yet we see no angel. So we can only infer what is happening from Mary’s attitude. The viewer understands that she was busy reading and something, or someone, distracted her as she looks up and turns slightly toward the object of her distraction. With her right hand, she almost seems to greet whoever is talking to her, but, if you look closely, you realize it is more than that: with that gesture, she is delicately yet firmly expressing consent to the request she just received.

The effect, and the emotions that arise from viewing this masterpiece, is that we see the Virgin Mary exactly as the Angel saw her. 

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