A personal commentary on the painting by John Collier.
The Annunciation is a fairly well know Bible story found in Luke 1: 26-38, when the angel Gabriel visits the young Mary to tell her that she is to be the mother of Jesus Christ.
John Collier in his painting, has given us a modern interpretation to the event. Collier has painted other works with a biblical theme but may be best known after being chosen as the chief sculptor for the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero.
The first thing likely to catch the eye of the viewer is the angel Gabriel. Were it not for his wings, and maybe less so his robe, there is little in the scene to suggest that this is not a typical, suburban scene.
With a closer look at Gabriel, it is noticed that his hair is in a modern style. Gabriel has his head bowed, possibly because he is offering a greeting on arrival, however I suspect it might be a respectful gesture as he takes his leave. I think this because of the expression on Mary’s face. She seems dumbfounded, or maybe worried, which would hardly be surprising with the message she has just been given.
As for the suburban scene, is it so far from being right? The setting is contemporary but there is every chance that the house Mary lived in would have been in a typical, of its time, suburb.
Following the shadows in the picture and their length, it seems to be early morning or evening when the sun is low in the sky. I imagine it as evening, Mary perhaps having returned from school, so maybe it’s a schoolbook she is reading. It is also a breezy evening. Look at the way Mary’s dress and Gabriel’s robe are blowing with the wind.
Mary’s dress is the traditional blue, in which she is often painted, though in early days it would be full length, not reaching just to her calf. Mary herself is clearly a young girl as is thought to be the original Mary, though in other works she is often shown older. We see her reading a book. The artists website suggests she is reading from Isaiah. This is not evident in the picture, at least not in the image available to me, I have never seen the original, however it is fair to suggest that it might be the Hebrew Bible she is reading.
In the foreground there is a pot plant, a white lily. These have often been a metaphor for purity. Did the angel bring the plant? If it hadn’t just been brought, then it seems to be in an unlikely place to leave it, where someone coming out of the door behind Mary might easily trip over it.
You can hear John Collier’s own commentary on his painting here.
This was something new for me to try. Please let me
know If you like it by commenting or liking the post.