Overview

The Annunciation described by Saint Luke is interpreted in terms of actuality in this painting, which was probably once the left wing of a triptych. The forms—even that of the archangel—seem to have weight and volume. Light and shadow play over them in a natural way, and with amazing skill, Jan van Eyck has distinguished between the textures of materials ranging from hard, polished stone to the soft, fragile petals of flowers.

Yet religious symbolism speaks from every detail, expounding the significance of the Annunciation, and the relationship of the Old Testament to the New. The structure of the church can be interpreted symbolically; the dark upper story, with its single, stained–glass window of Jehovah, may refer to the former era of the Old Testament, while the lower part of the building, already illuminated by the "Light of the World" and dominated by transparent, triple windows symbolizing the Trinity, may refer to the Era of Grace of the New Testament. The idea of passing from old to new is further manifested in the transition from the Romanesque round–arched windows of the upper story to the early Gothic pointed arches of the lower zone, and also in the depictions on the floor tiles: David beheading Goliath and Samson destroying the Philistine temple are both Old Testament events in the salvation of the Jewish people which prefigure the salvation of humankind through the coming of Christ.

Inscription

top of back wall to the right of furthest left figure: MOYSES F[I]SCELLA; above second figure from left: FI...PHARAONIS; on banderole: O IN VS HEBREORVM HIC EST; on globe in window: ASIA; above third figure from left: Moyses; on banderole: NO ASSVMES NOM DI TVI I VAN[VM]; above fourth figure from left: DNS; middle of back wall on left roundel: ISAAC; on right roundel: JACOB; to the right of Gabriel: AVE GRA PLENA; to the left of Mary, upside down and backwards: ECCE ANCILLA DNI; lower left on floor: A DALIDA VXORE S; lower center: SAVL REX; DAVID; GOLIAS; second row center: SAMSSON MVLTAS GENTES INTERFECIT T 9VIVIO

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly the Chartreuse de Champmol, near Dijon.[1] Sale, Paris, 1819. (Charles J. Nieuwenhuys, Brussels). William II, King of the Netherlands [d. 1849], in Brussels until 1841, thereafter The Hague;[2] (sale, The Hague, 12 August 1850, no. 1); bought by Bruni for Czar Nicholas I of Russia [d. 1855], Saint Petersburg; Imperial Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg;[3] purchased June 1930 through (Matthiesen Gallery, Berlin; P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London; and M. Knoedler & Co., New York) by Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 5 June 1931 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1907
Exposition de la toison d'or et de l'art néerlandais sous les Ducs de Bourgogne, Bruges, 1907, no. 175.
1994
Jan Van Eyck's 'Annunciation', National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994, brochure, color repro.
1997
Masterpieces from Museums Around the World: Van Eyck 'Annunciation' from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C.), The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 1997, no cat.
1997
Van Eyck's 'Annunciation': The Meeting of Heaven and Earth, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, brochure, color repro. on cover and fig. 2 (detail).
1998
Recognizing Van Eyck, The National Gallery, London; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998, no. 3, repro.
2002
Jan van Eyck, de Vlaamse Primitieven en het Zuiden [Jan van Eyck, Early Netherlandish Painting and Southern Europe], Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 2002, no. 19, fig. 17, repro. (catalogue titled The Age of Van Eyck, 1430-1530: The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting).

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1935
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1935
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1935
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1935
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1936
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1937
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1937
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1937
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1941
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1941
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1941
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1942
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1942
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1943
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1944
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1945
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1946
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1948
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1949
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1952
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1952
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1952
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1953
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1955
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1956
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1957
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1960
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1961
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1961
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1961
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1963
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1963
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1963
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1965
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1965
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1966
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1966
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1966
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1967
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1968
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1968
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1968
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1968
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1969
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1969
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1969
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1970
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1971
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1971
Strauss, Konrad. "Keramikgefässe, insbesondere Fayencegefässe auf Tafelbildern der deutschen und niederländischen Schule des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts." Keramik-Freunde der Schweiz. Mitteilungsblatt no. 84 (197l): 22, pl. 3, fig. 1.
1972
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1972
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1973
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1973
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1974
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1974
Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Limbourgs and their Contemporaries. New York, 1974: 446.
1974
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1975
Collier, James Mitchell. "Linear Perspective in Flemish Painting and the Art of Petrus Christus and Dirk Bouts." Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1975: 62-63, fig. 16.
1975
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1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 120, repro. 121.
1975
Ward, John. "Hidden Symbolism in Jan van Eyck's Annunciations." Art Bulletin 57, no. 2 (June 1975): 196-208, repro.
1976
Sterling, Charles. "Jan van Eyck avant 1432." Revue de l'Art no. 33 (1976): 9, 11.
1977
Williams, Carolyn. "Jan van Eyck's Annunciation: An Iconographical Study." M.A. thesis, University of Delaware, 1977.
1978
Bernardini, Cecilia. Jan van Eyck. Rome, 1978: 12, pl. 20.
1978
Panhans-Bühler, Ursula. Eklektizismus und Originalität im Werk des Petrus Christus. Vienna, 1978: 71, fig. 4.
1979
Châtelet, Albert. Van Eyck. Bologna, 1979: 40, 42, pl. 7.
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art Washington. New York, 1979: 47-48, color pl. 30. First English edition London, 1979: 47-48, color pl. 30.
1980
Dhanens, Elisabeth. Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Antwerp, 1980: 355, 358, fig. 221.
1981
Lyman, Thomas. "Architectural Portraiture and Jan van Eyck's Washington Annunciation." Gesta 20 no. 1 (1981): 263-271, fig. 1.
1981
O'Meara, Carra Ferguson. "Isabelle of Portugal as the Virgin in Jan van Eyck's Washington Annunciation." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 97 (1981): 99-103, figs. 1-2.
1982
Purtle, Carol J. The Marian Paintings of Jan van Eyck. Princeton, 1982: 40-58, 60, 75, figs. 26, 28-29.
1983
Giltay, J. Review of Hubert and Jan van Eyck by Elisabeth Dhanens. In Simiolus 13 (1983): 56-57.
1984
Lane, Barbara G. The Altar and the Altarpiece: Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting. New York, 1984: 45-47, fig. 28.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 120, no. 104, cover, color repro.
1985
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1985
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1986
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington,1986: 76-86, color repro. 77.
1991
Harbison, Craig. Jan van Eyck: The Play of Realism. Seattle, 1991: 174-175, fig. 114. (Second edition, London, 2012: 192-193, 233-234, color fig. 108.)
1991
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1992
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1993
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1993
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1994
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1995
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1995
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1996
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1996
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1996
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1996
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1996
Wallis, Stephen. "Sketchbook: Knoedler Turns 150." Art & Antiques 19, no. 10 (November 1996): 18, color repro.
1997
Butler, Marigene H. “An Investigation of the Philadelphia “Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata.” In Jan van Eyck: Two Paintings of Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, edited by Joseph J. Rishel. Exh. cat. Philadelphia, 1997: 40-41, 44 nt. 1, 45, nt. 22, 46, nt. 23, color fig. 57.
1997
Kehoe, Thomas J., Harold E. Damerow, Jose E. Duvall. Exploring Western Civilization, to 1648: A Workbook for the Active Student. Dubuque, 1997: 431, fig. 5.5.
1997
Richler, Martha. National Gallery of Art, Washington: A World of Art. London, 1997: 40-41, color fig. 21.
1997
Shaw-Eagle, Joanna. "Christ's Birth Gave Birth to Astounding Images: Gallery Glitters with holy Masterpieces." Washington Times (December 21, 1997): D1, repro.
1998
Ainsworth, Maryan W. "Religious Painting from about 1420 to 1500: In the Eye of the Beholder." In From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Edited by Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998: 79, 81-82, fig. 44.
1998
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. "Virgin/Virginity." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Chicago, 1998: 2:905.
1998
McLellan, Diana. "Really Big Shows." Washingtonian 33, no. 11 (August 1998): 70.
1999
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. 2 vols. Revised ed. New York, 1999: 2:18, fig. 5.
1999
Toman, Rolf, ed. Art of Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting. Translated by Christian von Arnim. Cologne, 1999: 407, color repro.
1999
Vogel, Carol. "Finding Fashion and History on th Edges: Museums Look Again at Their Picture Frames." New York Times (September 2, 1999): C1, C3.
2000
Il'in, Nikolas, and Natalia Semënova. Prodannye sokrovishcha Rossii [Sold Treasures of Russia]. Moscow, 2000: 180-181, repro.
2001
Holm, Kerstin. "Kaum enteignet, schon verscherbelt." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung no. 23 (27 January 2001): 21.
2001
Jong, Martien J.G. de. Kerstfeest in de Middeleeuwen. Leuven, 2001: 80, 89, color fig. 43.
2002
Borchert, Till-Holger. "The Age of Van Eyck: The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting 1430-1530. Exh. cat. Groeningemuseum, Bruges. London, 2002: 22, 67, fig. 17.
2002
Kaufman, John Edward. "Show of Netherlandish Art Another Charm of Brugge." Washington Times (June 15, 2002): 52.
2002
Prochno, Renate. Die Kartause von Champmol: Grablege der burgundischen Herzöge 1364-1477. Berlin, 2002: 207-209, fig. 107.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 38-41, no. 28, color repros.
2005
Snyder, James E. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. Revised by Larry Silver and Henry Luttikhuizen. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 99-100, fig. 5.16.
2005
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Rev. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 593, color fig. 17-12.
2006
Purtle, Carol J. "The Context of Van Eyck's Approach to the Thyssen Annunciation Diptych." In Hand, John Oliver and Ron Spronk, eds. Essays in Context: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych. Cambridge and New Haven, 2006: 76-77, fig. 4
2008
Borchert, Till-Holger. Van Eyck. Cologne, 2008: 49-51, color repro.
2008
Lindquist, Sherry C.M. Agency, Visuality and Society at the Chartreuse de Champmol. Aldershot, 2008: 78-79 nt.203.
2008
Nash, Susie. Northern Renaissance Art. Oxford History of Art series. Oxford, 2008: 205.
2009
Hudson, Hugh. Jan van Eyck: The Ince Hall Virgin and Child and the Scientific Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting. Saarbrücken, 2009: 94, 125, 156, 160, 170, 210, 265.
2009
Odom, Anne, and Wendy R. Salmond, eds. Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia's Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938. Washington, D.C., 2009: 91, 104 nn. 50 and 51,130 fig. 5.8, 131, fig. 5.9, 135 n. 62.
2011
Fiedler, Susanne, and Torsten Knuth. "Vexierbilder einer Biographie: Dr. Heinz Mansfeld (1899-1959)." Mecklenburgische Jahrbücher 126 (2011):307.
2011
Kemperdick, Stephan. “Saints with Shadows: Konrad Witz and Netherlandish Painting.” In Konrad Witz. Exh. cat. Kunstmuseum Basel, 2011. Ostfildern, 2011: 41, color fig. 19.
2012
Jack, Belinda. The Woman Reader. New Haven, 2012: 110, fig. 27.
2012
Uspenski, Boris. "The Composition of the Ghent Altarpiece (Divine and Human Perspectives)." In Vision and Material: Interaction Between Art and Science in Jan van Eyck's Time. Brussels, 2012: 198-199, color fig. 10.6.
2013
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago, 2013: 2, 465.
2013
König, Eberhard. “Wie die Welt in die Bilder kam.” Weltkunst 68 (January 2013): 44, 47, 49, color repro.

Conservation Notes

The painting was transferred from wood to canvas after it entered the Imperial Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, probably after 1864.[1] The picture has been extensively restored, though it is hard to say whether this was necessitated by the transfer or by previously existing conditions. Areas of craquelure have been repainted and the repaint has discolored; this is most evident in the background. Repaint is also present in portions of the angel's face and hair and in the Virgin's blue robe. It appears that large portions of the top glaze of the Virgin's robe have been lost and the surface has been altered by mechanical or chemical actions. The unsightly appearance of the robe is compounded by the fact that in certain areas the varnish has become opaque and milky. There are small losses in the book and the cushion.

Examination with infrared reflectography discloses underdrawing in several different areas. Parallel hatching and clusters of longer strokes can be seen in the Virgin's robe. Underdrawing exists in the face and hair and a portion of the wing of the angel Gabriel. The hem of Gabriel's robe bears an illegible inscription.[2] What appear to be perspective lines go through the capitals of the triforium at the left, and these indicate slight shifts of perspective. A diamond-shaped grid is underdrawn on the floor in the area depicting David slaying Goliath. There are broad indications of shadows at the edge of Gabriel's robe and thinner lines indicating shadows at the left of the stool.


[1]. In the 1850 sales catalogue of the collection of William II the painting is recorded as being on wood, and Waagen 1864, 115, gives the support as wood. The earliest Hermitage catalogue available to me, that of 1870, lists the picture as having been transferred to canvas at the Hermitage.
[2] First observed by Carol Purtle. The author and Molly Faries, communication of August 1984, have noted that the first word is close to the cabalistic AGLA, which appears in the Ghent Altarpiece; see Panofsky 1953, 210-211; Elisabeth Dhanens, Van Eyck: The Ghent Altarpiece (New York, 1973), 75.

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