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Virgin Annunciate

Virgin Annunciate, c. 1410-15

Lorenzo Monaco
Italian, c.1370-1425
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
31-5/8 x 17-1/2 in. (80.3 x 44.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The Virgin Mary’s quiet moment of devotional reading is interrupted by the startling revelation that she has been chosen to be the mother of Christ. Originally, a flanking panel depicted the Angel Gabriel announcing the message. Even in the absence of her counterpart, the Virgin’s carefully measured gesture and attentive, modest pose communicate her marvel. Her graceful form fills the panel, following the late-medieval tradition of placing the important figure close to the picture plane. Lorenzo delighted in depicting the brilliant blue of her drapery—highlighted with yellow, pink and green—and the rhythmic patterns created by its fall. The painter’s expertise as a book illuminator informs his attention to the decorative character of the details, from the embroidery of her garments to the punchwork in her halo.

Lorenzo’s spiritual calling as a Camaldolese monk certainly informed his work as an artist, and the serene, mystical quality of this Virgin Annunciate is in tenor with the panel’s religious and liturgical function. It likely belonged to an altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin that was commissioned for the church of San Benedetto fuori della Porta a Pinti in Florence. Major surviving portions are in the National Gallery, London.

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