The Annunciation
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Paolo Veneziano
Italian, about 1348 - 1350
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
6 9/16 x 4 in.

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These panels once formed the pinnacles of the wings of a now-dismembered portable altarpiece. A double-tiered central panel originally depicted the Madonna and Child below a Crucifixion. The triple-tiered side panels featured pairs of standing saints, with the Getty Museum's Annunciation panels forming the apex.

Kneeling, the Archangel Gabriel greets the Virgin at the moment of Christ's Incarnation. In the form of a dove, the Holy Spirit descends, flying close to the Virgin's face. Paolo Veneziano skillfully placed his figures within the difficult confines of the small trapezoidal space. The depiction of Mary's throne presented a challenge to the artist, but he set it at an angle thus, giving a sense of depth. He used the space above Gabriel by sweeping the angel's wings upwards so that the feathery ends touch the point where the frame meets the panel. The Virgin's facial features, her hieratic pose, and the decorative patterning of her dress and the cloth of honor draping her throne all illustrate Byzantine conventions of the past. But the figure of Gabriel shows a more modern influence: The innovations of Giotto and other Tuscan artists are seen in the way Veneziano has given the figure a weightiness and bulk achieved through sculptural modeling.

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