Works of Mercy
Lorenzo Lotto (Venice, c. 1480 – Loreto, 1556), Recanati Annunciation, 1527, oil on canvas, 166 cm x 114 cm, Recanati, Civic Museum
The environment in which the scene described by Luke (1: 26-38) takes place is a small room, with a few everyday objects used by Mary, the young woman living in it. On the right side of the painting there’s the mighty and real (we can actually see his shadow on the floor) figure of the angel Gabriel, who almost seems to have glided through the beautiful arched entrance. Above, in the clouds, the figure of God, the one who chose Mary to make her become the Mother of the Lord, His Son Jesus, and the one who sent the angel.
The presence of the angel is so real that the cat got scared and is fleeing.
The appearance of the angel is so sudden that Mary - who most likely was praying on the prie-dieu – has turned to us, the viewers, with a gesture of amazement. The dialogue between the angel and Mary has yet to begin, the confusion of the young woman is so great that she almost seems to ask for our help. Even the beautiful folds of her dress seem to suggest that she has just turned to face us. Her unfurling hands emphasise on the one hand the amazement about what is going on, but on the other hand they almost anticipate her answer: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word".
An important element that catches the eye of the viewer is the light. The room is dimly lit, the light comes from the outside, but the face of Mary - which should be in the shade, since she’s turning her back to the light source - is illuminated by a light that bounces off her red-and-pink-hued garment, hits her left hand and finally lands on her slight blush.
Lorenzo Lotto therefore prefers this kind of intimate and humble representation, as if to get us closer to the understanding of the mystery, which happened in an environment that could be the home of any of us observers.
One final note about the beautiful garden that we can see beyond the front door. It seems to be a reference to the earthly Paradise, where the man was kicked out from for having sinned against God, but where the man is led back through the motherhood of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. According to the Church, it is Mary the woman spoken of in the book of Genesis when God turns to the tempting serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (3: 15).
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.