Analysis of the Annunciation by Master of the Retable of the Reyes Catolicos

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Created by Master of the Retable of the Reyes Catolicos (also known as Master of the Catholic Kings), this is another version of The Annunciation, a very common subject for artists ever since the inception of Christianity. It was produced between 1466 and 1499 as oil on pine panel, and it stands at 60 3/8 x 37in. It is now located in San Francisco, CA in the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum as a gift from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The centerpiece of the piece is obviously Mary, though she is on the right side of the painting. In one hand she holds an open bible, and she holds her other hand up in prayer while she is looking down with her eyes almost completely shut. She has a halo surrounding her head as gold rays shine down on her from god, carrying Jesus to her. There is also a dove surrounded by gold above her head. This was a very common Christian symbol used to represent the Holy Spirit.

Believed to be standing next to Mary is Archangel Gabriel who delivers the message to Mary that she would bear the child of god. While it is believed to be him, it’s peculiar because the archangel is represented as a woman who in fact looks very similar to Mary with long wavy red hair flowing down with a widow’s peak. The archangel is shown looking at Mary while also pointing to her and holding a golden staff. Painted gold in Latin are the words “The lord is with you.” “I am the maid of the lord” is also etched into Mary’s cloak. They are both shown standing inside a house in the countryside with the door open.

Outside the door there are rolling hills and grassland with a clear blue sky. This suggests that it is most likely summertime, putting the birth of Christ in March, when Christmas was originally celebrated.1 Up in the sky is god surrounded by solid gold and dark clouds. He is dressed in solid red robes and hat, with golden hems and crosses on the outfit. He is holding some kind of glass orb and shooting down rays of light onto Mary. Flowing down the rays...
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