Giovanni di Paolo's Annunciation is believed to be one of five predella panels that belonged to the lower portion of a large, as yet unidentified, Sienese altarpiece. The central area of the panel shows the most important part of the painted narrative -- the Archangel Gabriel announcing the impending birth of the Christ Child to the Virgin Mary. Outside her elegant Italian Gothic house, a lush garden reflects the spring season of the Annunciation. The fertile landscape also provides an appropriate setting for the secondary representation at the left -- Adam and Eve's dramatic expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Giovanni used the figure of God the Father, who occupies the celestial realm in the upper left corner, to link the Expulsion to the Annunciation. God both points out the exiled couple's disgrace and looks ahead toward the Annunciation in anticipation of divine redemption. Finally, at the right, Joseph warms his hands at a fireplace, symbolic of Jesus' future birth in the winter.
Disregarding naturalistic detail in favor of flat, decorative pattern, Giovanni was nevertheless aware of current Renaissance experiments in linear perspective, as exemplified by the receding floor tiles in both the central loggia and Joseph's cubicle. The artist's decision, however, not to follow realistic spatial and scale relationships completely, and his use of willowy, elegantly dressed figures, place him firmly within the medieval pictorial tradition, now reappearing as the International Style.
Marks and Labels
Sir William John Farrer, London, by 1866; purchased in or before 1868 by Sir John Charles Robinson [1824-1913], London; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 19 April 1902, no. 73); purchased by (Charles Fairfax Murray [1849-1919], London and Florence) for Robert Henry [1850-1929] and Evelyn Holford [1856-1943] Benson, London and Buckhurst Park, Sussex; sold 1927 with the Benson collection to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); sold May 1936 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Pictures of the School of Siena, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1904, no. 30, as The Annunciation.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1910, no. 1, as The Annunciation.
- Loan Exhibition of the Benson Collection of Old Italian Masters, City Art Gallery, Manchester, 1927, no. 100.
- Benson, Robert Henry. Catalogue of Italian Pictures at 16 South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex. London, privately printed, 1914: no. 9.
- Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 37, repro.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 84, no. 334.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 246, repro. 118.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 24, repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 41, repro.
- Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 29-30, repro. 22.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 26, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 14, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): 53, fig 19, pl. 153
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 44, repro.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 16, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 299, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 59.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:14, color repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 148, fig. 402, 404.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 51, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 154, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:223-224, II:pl. 151
- Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas. Part I." Apollo 109 (April 1979): 304  fig. 18.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 80, no. 31, color repro., as by Giovanni di Paolo
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 178, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 14, repro.
- Shaw-Eagle, Joanna. "Christ's Birth Gave Birth to Astounding Images: Gallery Glitters with holy Masterpieces." Washington Times (December 21, 1997): D5, repro.
- Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. "Virgin/Virginity." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Chicago, 1998: 2:905.
- Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 325-332, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: inside front flap, 18, no. 12, color repros.