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A Deeper Look into a Piece of Art

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One of the most celebrated paintings in the Robert Lehman Collection, this jewel-like representation of the Annunciation is set in an architectural interior constructed according to a rigorous system of one-point perspective. The panel was almost certainly commissioned as a private devotional image, not as part of a larger structure. While the identity of the patron is not known, the work was in the famed Barberini collection in Rome in the seventeenth century.

Jia Jing lei
Art History
Professor Boyce
November 20, 2012
A deeper look into the fine art of the “ Annunciation”
As I walk in the Metropolitan Art Museum, I began to walk around the art gallery that was around me. It was a great area with a roomful of bright and artistic paintings that was created by famous artists around the world. But only one painting got my attention. The painting happens to be the Annunciation by Botticelli. The Botticelli’s The Cestello Annunciation was presented in a jewel-like style and it is an architectural interior constructed based on a rigorous system of one-point perspective. After viewing the artistic techniques in the painting, it was clear that the painting demonstrates Botticelli’s style in bring together ideas of Christianity and pagan ideas which includes mythology and the changes in art due to the humanism of the Renaissance. Just giving a brief summary of famous painter Botticelli, Sandro would be considering the most famous painter of early Renaissance period, which was the one of the leading painters during his time in Florence. During his early career as an artist Botticelli trained with Filippo Lippi and he learned the delicacy, finesse and sweetness in which Filippo possessed while adding a wiry vigor of draughtsman ship comparable to that of Antonio Pollaiuolo.

Highlighting some of the success in Botticelli’s career, he produces the Madonnas of half-length or Tondo format, deriving from Filippo Lippi’s models. In addition to Botticelli’s development in his own personal artistic style, he produced portraits that are with great charm and admirable in their depictions of a typically Florentine physiognomy and prevailing pure profile to frontal and three-quarter views under Netherland influence. Within Botticelli’s career, he produced exquisite small figure scales and the extraordinary Primavera in which figures are three-quarter in life size. The primavera is commonly supposed to suppose to have been painted for the young Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’Medici, but he possessed it before 1495, while on grounds of style t must have been painted perhaps before Lorenzo was adolescent. In 1481-1482, Botticelli, together with Perugino, Ghilandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, was painting matching Old and New Testament scenes on the walls of the newly completed Sstine chapel in Rome.

However, by the end of the 1490s his style become more mannered, as in 1489 Cestello Annunciation, with its exaggerated gestures, with elongated figures. The Botticelli’s style had shifted into using oild glazes and it is rather dry. In contrast to Mantegna, that he devised his own allegories though he is well known in Medicean humanist circles. However, Botticelli did not invent but he was a consummate illustrate. By looking at the timeline in which Botticelli had progressed in his artistic styles, we can realize that art can be adapted with different surroundings and influences. (The Oxford Companion to Western Art) In the painting, the artist depicts the moment just after the Archangel arrival and it appears that it is telling the woman (which appear to look like virgin marry) that something bad is going to happen. From the facial expression of Virgin Mary we can see the frustration and uncertain of her feelings. The Tempera and gold on wood makes the image very peaceful and quiet. While the colors of the image would be bright, it is light and the colors make the scene between the Archangel and Virgin Mary Stand out.

Just by looking at the image, there is a lot of empty space that is surrounded in the back ground. In that way, we would not pay attention to the background but the tension in the scene instead. Basically at first glance, there is a depiction of purity and grace on the beautiful oil master piece. The two figures of the Archangel and Virgin Mary are close together and it shows a scene of almost touching fingers while they try to reach for one another but seems like they would never join hands. The male figure of the archangel would carry a long feather like pen and it would bow down to the Virgin marry and tries to respectable speak to her. On the other hand, the Virgin Mary seems to be in authority because she is standing up and looking down at the Archangel. This creates tension in the painting while we question the social distinction between the two. Looking closely at the Virgin Mary, her eyes would be close. It is almost like she is resisting the contact from the Archangel and tried to stay away from him. Looking on the left, the Archangel have white wings and there is green-yellowish light that surrounds him and the red clothing on him show that he is there for good news.

But the resistance from the Virgin Mary seem like she is unaware of what is happening and is unable to accept the annunciation from the angel. The Annunciation was presented in a jewel-like style would be set in an architectural interior constructed to a one point perspective system, which contains one set of parallel lines perpendicular to the picture plane and parallel to the ground. The panel would have a private devotional image, not as part of a larger structure. The work would be in the famed Barberini collection in Rome in the seventeenth Lehman Collection, The Annunciation was given by Lehman to his father Phillip as a birthday gift. It would be a historical content that shows how people had enjoyed this painting so much because of its unique artistic characteristics. (Met-museum of Art, Timeline of Art History) In addition to the back ground of the painting, it creates a smooth and quiet atmosphere. There would be a tree and grass while looking closely there would be a tower with a bridge on the far end.

It shows that the Archangel has travel a long way to give the annunciation to Virgin Mary and the importance of the news. The annunciation would be an important and yet different event for Virgin Mary because she is unaware of what to do after hearing the news. According to John R. Spencer, with the Christian Church view, Annunciation was meant to present the complex theological concept of theological or the Incarnation. It shows life as the Annunciation marks the beginning of the life of Christ and the life of the Virgin. It is important because the birth of Christ shows how the savor of mankind and would bring good news to the world. It demonstrates the fundamental tenant of Christianity and with few intellectually concepts lends itself readily to dramatization or portrayal popularity and vitality as an iconographical motif. While the Iconography shows the identification, interpretation and the description of the content of images and the specific compositions and details in the painting (Spencer John.R) In the European Culture, Christianity was basically integrated into it and the life of Christ was understood as an essential embodiment of Christian teachings.

This is why the scenes of Christ’s life were common in European art and there is more to it. In a society that gives great attention to religion and required religious images, artist performed an indispensable service and had to work with the structure of the tradition. It was necessary to represent Christ’s life in Italy based on official practice within the Western church. The scenes in Christ’s would be desirable in churches, painted altarpieces, in portable form, in illustrated books and small altarpieces suitable for private use or collection. It was meant to show the faithfulness in communal and individual worship, and devotional treatises gave instructions on the usage of the image in order to recognize how sacred it is. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the pictures held a deeper meaning as it traces the stories of Christ’s life and it was represented in independent easel paintings for religious reasons. (Helibrunn Timeline of Art History)

As time change and new artistic styles emerge. The Annunciation was able to adapt itself to the changing tastes in art and theology. Due to humanism of the Renaissance, rational and humanist art of the 15th century Florence would generate into new forms. Despite the new forms of art that was produced at the time, Annunciation stayed popular and strong influence and new aesthetic arose in Florence towards the beginning of Fifteen Century. Botticelli would be considering the most famous painter during the Renaissance period and his artistic style and approach had impacted religious people and society in the way of looking at art in a new way. In more than a sense, art has become more than a way of entertainment or hobby but it was like way of living life and seeing the meaning behind the painting that would affect the audience as a whole. Art is simply magnificent.


1) “Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi): The Annunciation
(1975.1.74)”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1975.1.74 (June 2008) 2) Sorabella, Jean. “Painting the Life of Christ in Medieval and Renaissance Italy”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chri/hd_chri.htm (June 2008) 3) Spencer, John R. “Spatial Imagery of the Annunciation in Fifteenth Century Florence,” in The Art Bulletin , Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1955), pp. 273-280. Published by: College Art Association. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3047619 4) Artist’s Biography: Botticelli (Italian, Florentine, 1444/45–1510). http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e347

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