Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Andrea della Robbia’s “Annunciation”

The Annunciation acts as the frequent muse and subject for many Italian Renaissance artworks. The Annunciation refers to the pivotal moment when the Archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This narrative was first written in the book of Luke, Chapter 1, verses 26-38 of the New Testament.

This subject in particular is so central because it is the beginning of what will become Christ’s entrance into the physical and spiritual world. The figures present in this narrative are paramount to the natural composition of the scene – two parallel figures (Mary and Gabriel) engaging in a spiritual discourse with the omnipresent God the Father often represented symbolically or hovering in the background. This being said, there are some Italian Renaissance artworks that break the mold while still staying true to the original Biblical narrative of the Annunciation.

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ahmanson Building, Room 314 is designated to Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture. Amongst the artworks is Andrea della Robbia’s installment of figures from his 1465 “Annunciation.” Originally a group of four consisting of the “Virgin”, “Angel Gabriel”, “God the Father”, and the “Dove of the Holy Spirit,” the LACMA currently only exhibits two: the “Virgin” and “Angel Gabriel.” Mary is a life-sized 56 inches tall and Gabriel, slightly taller, measures at approximately 62 inches. As a member of a well known artisanal family, della Robbia followed in the path of his father and uncle and commonly sculpted using terra-cotta which was popular during the Germanic and Italian Renaissance eras (Frederick 13.) Terra-cotta was a preferred medium because it was less expensive, and easier to transport than marble sculptures being made at the time (Valentiner 86-87.) The process of working with terra-cotta was a more sensual one in that the artist’s hands made direct...
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