The Annunciation by Gerard David
Created on October 15, 2023
Genially Assignment 1- Aaron Russell
More creations to inspire you
When I first noticed the book on the table or stool in front of Mary I thought that maybe the book was a Book of Hours or some other religious text. But then I began thinking that if the artist was recalling the Bible for this depiction, the book in front of Mary is most likely not a religious text that she would have been reading or would have had in her possession. I am then moved to believe that this is also another illustration of Mary’s connection to humanity through his very human and material possession. But thinking further, I do believe that this painting was originally an altarpiece just based on how it was originally a diptych. So with this being said, if this was meant to be in a church I believe that Mary having a book that has a similar look to a religious text, I think it was meant to be an example for others that they should be reading their scripture. We discussed in class previously how Mary became a symbol for women to follow, so this just reinforces the fact that many people would have been booking Mary's figure as something to follow. Another idea I have about Mary’s book is that it is quite literally God’s word being brought to her in a physical representation for viewers' understanding and perhaps a representation of what she would be bringing into the world in the form of Christ. The book also makes quite good use of chiaroscuro. This can be seen in the shadows on the pages on the left which is a result of either the light from the dove or from a location which we cannot see.
The white flowers seen in the vase to the left of Mary’s figure are very similar to other flowers we have seen throughout this course in which Mary or a figure representative of Mary such as depictions of Venus. White specifically is used in renaissance paintings to emulate purity as well as chastity. I believe by placing the white flowers next to Mary, it is meant to highlight Mary’s purity, chastity, and piety. Representing her as a figure that women should follow and look up to while also emphasizing that the Mother of God is someone who is pure and free of sin. I think Mary’s depiction along with the white flowers also is meant to represent her humanity. By having these flowers in Mary’s presence, it emphasizes her connection to the natural world which in turn connected Mary to a form of divine and pure humanity. Having the flowers there I think also poses a unique perspective that Mary was once just a normal individual prior to her becoming Jesus’ mother. So I think the flowers are also meant to represent her change into a divine figure during the annunciation but also still stressing her connection to humanity.
To me, one of the more striking components of this piece is the floor. It’s not something that I have really seen in similar paintings of Mary’s annunciation that we have looked at in class or saw while I was doing research for this specific assignment. The textured appearance of each floor tile shows me that the artist had a good understanding of different brush strokes and how incorporating different brush strokes on surfaces could add more depth to the piece. The floor is also very reminiscent of the different renaissance Italian architecture that we recently have been viewing during our lectures. This makes sense because this painting was commissioned by Vincenzo Sauli, who was a very wealthy Italian banker and diplomat with ties to Northwestern Europe–more specifically the city of Burges located in modern day Belgium. Perhaps the artist wanted to depict the connection between the commissioner and his origins. The artist is also successful with using chiaroscuro. This can be seen by the Archangel Gabriel’s shadow on the floor where he is standing. What I think is most interesting about this is that not only can we see the shadow from Gabriel’’s figure but also from his cloak that seems as if it is billowing in some “holy angelic wind”. The most important aspect of the floor is how there looks to be some form of linear perspective being used. One of the reasons why I noticed the floor in this painting was because of how it moves back into space. If I create imaginary orthogonal lines while looking at this panel, I can sort of see how the points all meet at an imaginary point behind Gabriel. This technique also draws the viewers eyes to Gabriel as this method places him in the center of the panel while not necessarily actually being in the center of the panel.
Upon my initial viewing of this painting, I first noticed the abnormal and disproportionate body of the Archangel Gabriel. Simply put, the figure looks awkward. The torso of Angel Gabriel is very small in comparison to the length of his legs. Looking more closely at how Gabriels garment drapes over his body, you can see that the legs on the figure have very long thighs but the rest of the leg from the knee down is very short. This can be seen more clearly by the foreshortening of the figure. Based on the bizarre build of Gabriel, I believe that perspective played a large role in the presentation of this painting. Either it was meant to be an altarpiece or placed on a high up wall which would make the figures look much different especially if you were gazing up at the painting. Gabriel's left knee is directed towards the viewers. The lighting makes this much more successful because the light either looks like it's coming from above at an angle signifying Gabriel arriving in the presence of Mary for the Annunciation. The glow on Gabriel's body also looks as if it is also coming from the dove shown on the panel depicting Mary. The halo like blue and red light shows that this entity is holy. This makes me believe that this is supposed to be representative of God or the Holy Spirit's presence during this scene. So reiterating one of my previous points, the form of the Gabriel's body would have worked together with the foreshortening of his bodily position and based on the direction of the lighting would have worked together in making Gabriel's body look larger than life (literally) if the painting was either an altarpiece or placed on a high wall.
The dove located above Mary leads me to believe that the artist used oil paint, based on the vibrant orange and yellows seen emanating off of the dove. With this, I believe that the dove is supposed to represent the Holy Spirit “entering Mary” or the dove is a representation of God’s presence during the annunciation–which you could say are interchangeable. The dove could also again represent not only Mary’s humanity but also God’s presence within humanity as well as God’s imminent “creation” of Christ to be God on Earth. What I also found to be a little more peculiar with this piece is that the Annunciation usually shows the Holy Ghost coming through a window as a representation of the Spirit coming down from the heavens. But here, the dove isn't seen coming from a specific point which I think is what makes this painting distinct from the other paintings depicting the Annunciation of Mary.
The Annunciation by Netherlandish painter Gerard David, depicts the Annunciation of the Mary Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel. The two panels were originally a part of a polyptych which was commissioned by the wealthy Italian banker and diplomat Vincenzo Sauli. David’s style and technique echoes many different styles of both Northern European (Flemish) and Italian art. This may be due to the connection of the painting being commissioned by a well-known, wealthy Italian diplomat who had connections to Northern Europe. This can most notably be seen through the interesting use of perspective through mathematics which created the abstract forms of each figure's body. As well as the use of international gothic style which was popular in Northern Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. I also think it is important to note that with Northern European styles the emphasis is on depicting everyday life through the symbolism of everyday, common objects. Firstly in regard to the Italian modes, the use of linear perspective in order to give the room that Gabriel and Mary are located in more depth really draws us in to make the viewers feel like the painting has not only more space, but a whole world outside of the moment that they are viewing. The artist most definitely had an understanding of mathematics which is a key note of Italian renaissance technique (in some regions of course). Due to the fact that the Archangel Grabiel’s legs are so disproportionate to the rest of the figure's body, it pushes me to believe that the paintings were meant to be located higher up on either an altar or a wall of a church. This would make the figures, specifically Gabriel, to look more proportional in size and anatomy. The Northern European technique can be seen through depicting the Annunciation of Mary in a very normal setting. Many of the Italian Annunciation pieces we have seen usually take place in a very unordinary setting or outside in some form of another. I think making the Annunciation take place in what looks to be Mary's quarters makes the setting feel much more intimate which really puts emphasis on the humanity of Mary–a characteristic of Italian and Northern European art in the wake of the humanist movement. Even the objects that surround Mary put immense emphasis on her humanity. Such as the vase of white flowers to represent purity, the book Mary has opened to show the connection to the word of God, and even the red bag on the floor beside Mary all have deep religious symbolism that depict Mary as a holy and pious figure. I also find that the vibrancy of the blues and reds used also reflect the Northern European technique. This is something that we have seen with other Flemish artists such as Jan van Eyck and his Man in a Red Turban piece. The successful use of chiaroscuro by David is also a hallmark of Northern European art and the use of oil paint. Most notably seen in the seemingly descending Gabriel with his shadow on the floor and the pages of Mary’s book which she has right in front of her. Overall, The Annunciation by Gerard David is a unique exploration of multiple styles. Seen through the use of mathematics for perspective, vibrant colors, the realism of the two figures, symbolism in everyday objects, and the intimate and closed off scene that David depicts which in my opinion, is the most successful component of this work.