The Annunciation, X 5

You have to love the Annunciation.  It’s about a very young girl saying “yes” to something amazing — a “yes”  that took  jaw-dropping courage and faith.  It’s about God choosing to become very, very small and grow inside the body of a woman.  It’s about the very beginning of a baby who would one day become a man, an astonishing man who would smash prejudices, break bread with outcasts, treat women with equality and dignity, and preach an utterly  subversive law of  love.

So yeah… I kind of like today’s feast day.

I’m obviously not the first person to get all emotional when reflecting on the Annunciation.  And while my medium is words, plenty of artists throughout the centuries have used paint and canvas to shed light on the subject.  I’ve assembled a few Annunciation scenes here, in honor of the day and all that it has meant to billions of people since then.  Take a look:

Annunciation by Mikhail Nesterov

I love the blue in Mary’s robe here.   Something about the colors — the gold, the yellow, the green, the blue — makes me think of springtime.  And hey,  the Annunciation is all about new beginnings, isn’ t it?

Annunciation by Rubens

I’ve always loved the extravagance of Rubens’ paintings.  This one is no exception.     I have to say, though, that I’m not a big fan of the cat there in the foreground.  In my gut, I am convinced that Mary was a dog person (clearly, I’m projecting).

Ecce Ancilla Domini! by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This is one of the few paintings of the Annunciation where Mary actually seems … scared.  She huddles against the wall as if for protection.  Frankly, that makes a lot of sense to me.  If an angel appeared in my room, hovering above the ground with fire coming out of his feet,  I would not exactly be calm.  So this depiction just seems realistic to me, which is why I love it.  (Oh, and I’m a huge fan of Rossetti, and all the Pre-Raphaelites.  I love them with the burning passion of a thousand suns.)

The Annunciation by Edward Burne-Jones

Speaking of Pre-Raphaelites, here’s one by Edward Burne-Jones.  I love the Grecian elements in this painting, and I like how the perspective echoes some of the famous Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation. ( Deep inside me, there is a frustrated art historian dying to get out … can you tell?)

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

If we’re looking for realism, this is probably one of the best Annunciations I’ve seen.   Mary actually looks like a young woman of humble background, not like some wealthy Italian beauty.   The look on her face is fascinating, too: questioning, earnest, not entirely sure, but not too worried, either.  This painting really moves me.

So what do you think ?  Is there a painting here that you really like?  Or do you have other favorites?

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