Among the National Gallery's earliest life-size sculptures (and few medieval works in wood) is this figure and a companion work, The Archangel Gabriel. Mary and the archangel, who brings her the miraculous tidings as described in the Gospel of Saint Luke, turn calmly toward each other, expressing their emotions by subtle movements and gestures of their hands. Their slender proportions, fine, sharply delineated facial features, sinuously waving hair, and the deep, curving folds of their costumes, are typical of the Gothic style.
These wooden figures are copied from a pair of fourteenth-century marble statues in the church of Santa Caterina in Pisa, Italy. Carbon-14 tests on samples of the wood have indicated that each piece was carved from a tree cut down at least six hundred years ago.
Such Annunciation pairs would perhaps have flanked the entrance to the high-altar area of a church or the altar itself. While they might also have been set into tabernacles, the carving completely in the round suggests a position in which viewers could move around them. Their surfaces were once completely polychromed, and traces of the colors remain -- red, blue, green, and a red-and-gilt pattern on the borders of the mantles.
Marks and Labels
Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi [1878-1955]. Acquired 1950 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 254, 256, no. 106, repro. 257, as by Nino Pisano.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 391, repro., as by Nino Pisano.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 6-8, color repro. 9, 10, as by Nino Pisano.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 163, as by Nino Pisano.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 144, repro., as by Nino Pisano.
- Middeldorf, Ulrich. Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools XIV-XIX Century. London, 1976: 8.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 280, repro.
- Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 174, repro.