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Artist Unknown, Antwerp School, Belgium

Artwork Details

circa 1520
Artist Unknown, Antwerp School, Belgium
oil on panel
30 1/2 x 24 5/16 x 2 in. (77.47 x 61.6 x 5.08 cm)
Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Charles H. Sawyer


March 28, 2009
Painters and sculptors outnumbered bakers and butchers in mid-sixteenth-century Antwerp. This surprising statistic reveals the importance of artistic production to the economy of a city that emerged as a mercantile capital of Europe during the 1500s. Many of the artists in Antwerp were employed in workshops, where they produced the vast majority of works for export and some for local consumption. This panel depicting the Annunciation shares many stylistic features with paintings made in Antwerp from about 1520, including the composition of the scene and the embellishment of the architecture with fashionable Italian decorative elements. Although the artist of this work remains unidentified, some of the most famous artists of the period also trained or worked in the city: Joos van Cleve, for instance, whose painting of St. John on Patmos hangs nearby, was one of Antwerp’s established masters.

Subject Matter:

This painted panel depicts the Annunciation in which the archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to give birth to the son of God. The Virgin turns from her reading and humbly accepts the divine decree as the Holy Spirit, a white dove encircled by light, descends to impregnate her. The flowering white lily placed on the floor nearby symbolizes her virtue and purity.

Physical Description:

An angel, holding a scepter in his left hand and making a gesture of speech with his right, interrupts the Virgin at her reading. She kneels on the floor and rests her left hand on an open book placed atop a lectern. A vase with a flowering lily sits on the floor between the angel and the Virgin and a small white dove encircled by a halo hovers between them. The scene unfolds within an elaborate and richly decorated interior that includes a chair and canopied bed in the background.

Usage Rights:

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