National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Virgin Annunciate Pisan 14th Century (sculptor)
The Virgin Annunciate, 1325/1350
wood, polychromed and gilded
overall: 162.3 x 53.8 x 39.9 cm (63 7/8 x 21 3/16 x 15 11/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 6 of 8

The Virgin Annunciate (shown here) and The Archangel Gabriel make up a monumental Annunciation pair, in which Mary holds the Old Testament from which she has been reading the prophecies that a virgin would conceive. Arriving to announce to her that she has been chosen for this honor, the Archangel Gabriel places one hand over his heart to acknowledge her sanctity and greets her with the other hand. In exquisite Gothic refinement, Mary and the angel, with small, fine features and rhythmically waving hair, incline toward each other in graceful poses. The deep, curving folds of drapery create elegantly ornamental surface effects and add grace to their subtle movements.

These works are early copies after a pair of marble statues, very famous in their time, from the church of Santa Caterina in Pisa (now in a museum in that city). Such Annunciation pairs would perhaps have flanked the entrance to the high altar area of a church or the altar itself or have been set into a tabernacle. As with panel paintings of the Middle Ages, the wood sculpture was prepared with coats of a fine plaster, called gesso, in order to receive paint. Traces of pigment that once covered the surfaces remain—red, blue, green, and a red and gilt pattern on the mantle borders.

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