Transcribing Lorenzetti’s Annunciation
I love the brilliant blue and of Mary and her contemplative gaze in this Annunciation altarpiece by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Lorenzetti was a Sienese painter in the first half of the 14th century and this work of his is presently housed in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena, Italy. Painted in 1344, the painting blends the gilded techniques of Eastern iconography with the “new” Western trends towards more emotional and expressive poses and more dimensionality in the figures. This style was called “International Gothic” because it brought together diverse artistic traditions in a moment of increasing trade and cultural dialogue around the Mediterranean. My version of the Lorenzetti painting is tiny, only 6″ x 6″, but I’m looking for the contemplative quality he captures…
Annunciation and Incarnation
I first encountered the image of the Annunciation when I went to study in Italy in 1997. As an Evangelical Protestant, all of these images of Mary which decorated literally every street corner were somewhat perplexing. In particular the image of the Annunciation when used as an altarpiece troubled me. If Jesus is the center of the Mass shouldn’t Jesus be the center of the image, as well?
It was several years and a lot of reading and study before I realized the profundity of the Annunciation image: this moment is the moment of the Incarnation – when the Holy Spirit becomes human in the womb of Mary. And his Incarnation is lived every day on the altar in the Eucharist, when Christ comes to each of us in the bread and the wine. And so Jesus IS at the center of the image – at the moment of humanity’s embrace of the Incarnation, and so the very beginning of God’s life on earth.
Lorenzetti and Looking Forward
This image of Lorenzetti also inspired a more recent series of Gold Silhouette paintings, where I begin to use the materials of metal leaf and paint to explore more contemporary interpretations of the Virgin Mary. I believe we are once again in a moment where Christian art needs to draw from a diversity of artistic traditions in order to speak to our time. Through studying these centuries-old images of the Annunciation I would like to create images of Mary which can speak to our own time, creating a sort of contemporary icon.