High Renaissance Art: The Annunciation

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During our tour at the Legion of Honor, we observed art starting from the early and High Renaissance. Next, we went to the Dutch Baroque period, British art, and ended at the impressionists. A most notable work of art from the tour was “The Annunciation” by Master of the Retable of the Reyes Católicos. This oil on wood panel painting was created in the late 1500s, during the High Renaissance period of the art historical cannon. It portrays the biblical event found in the Gospel of Luke in which the archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is pregnant with Jesus, the son of God. “The Annunciation” is a religious painting and is an example of the many great works of art from the High Renaissance. In Art: A Brief History, the authors Marilyn…show more content…
Many of the objects depicted in High Renaissance paintings were there for a reason. In “The Annunciation,” Mary is the largest figure and the main focus. She is shown facing front, with her head tilted toward the floor and her eyes almost closed. In her left hand she is holding the Bible, representing her devoutness to God, her right hand is raised, all fingers pointing up. Archangel Gabriel is on the left side of the panel, shown smaller and wearing the ornate vestments of a priest. His clothes symbolize the similarity between him and the clergy of the Church: they both share the word of God. They are both wearing very loose fitting clothing that have many folds. The Holy Trinity is represented here by God, baby Jesus carrying his cross, and a dove, often a symbol of the Holy Spirit. They are all connected by seven rays of light, flowing directly from God’s mouth onto Mary. The seven rays represent the seven days it took God to create the universe. Gold is used as a symbol to represent divinity (Smith). White lilies in a vase between angel Gabriel and Mary often symbolized Mary’s purity. Written on the vase is “Ave Regina,” representing the Hail Mary prayer. The Latin words written in gold are archangel Gabriel telling Mary, “‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus’” (Luke 1:31). Symbolism can also be found in the frame of the painting. The three arches at the top represent the Holy Trinity. Groups of three like the arches were popular throughout Christian art to represent the Holy
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