Today's Gospel in Art - The Annunciation of the Lord


The Annunciation with St Emidius, by Carlo Crivelli  - 1486     © National Gallery, London

The Annunciation with St Emidius, by Carlo Crivelli - 1486 © National Gallery, London

Gospel of 25th March 2020 - Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.' She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.'

Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?' 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you' the angel answered 'and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.' 'I am the handmaid of the Lord,' said Mary 'let what you have said be done to me.' And the angel left her.

Reflection on the Painting

In the summer of 1995 I moved to London, where I have lived ever since. One of the very first paintings I saw was this magnificent canvas by Carlo Crivelli, at the National Gallery. The burst of colours (and this photograph doesn't entirely do justice to the picture), the detail and symbolism of the composition moved me. Still when I see this painting now, it reminds me of the start of that new chapter in life. Like an old friend reminding you of good times, art has the power to remind us of past times.

We see the ray of light from the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary. The closed passage into the depth at the left and the flask holding pure water in Mary's bedroom refer to Our Lady's virginity. The two other figures in the foreground are the angel Gabriel and Saint Emidius, carrying a model of Ascoli Piceno, a town in Marche, Italy, of which he is the patron saint. It is not unusual to see a local saint effectively intervening and being depicted as part of a biblical event. The apple in the foreground represents the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, and therefore serves as a symbol of sin. The cucumber, balanced on the edge of the painting towards the viewer, symbolises the reversal of sin: resurrection and redemption. The peacock is associated with immortality, because it was believed that its flesh never decayed.

A man on a bridge is reading a message handed to him by another man, delivered by the carrier pigeon in the cage beside them, a clever analogy of the message of the Annunciation itself. Around them the town goes on, oblivious to the events depicted. Only a small, innocent, pure child peering round the corner seems to be interested in what is happening. A whole world goes on its way, apparently oblivious to the new Christian chapter in history which has begun in this very scene. Only Mary is complete in her way of being ready, humble and available to respond to the Lord…

Today's story - https://christianart.today/reading.php?id=369

Christian Art Today - https://christianart.today/


Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Carlo Crivelli

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