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quattrocento Annunciation paintings, Renaissance art, narrative painting


Quattrocento Annunciation paintings are particularly useful in offering us a better understanding of the nature of narration in Renaissance art. When we describe the narration in Renaissance art. When we describe the narrative construction of the Annunciation in the work of quattrocento painters, a Fra Angelico, a Fra FIlippo Lippi, or a Sandro Botticelli, we know, of course that the Annunciation as a narrative ultimately resides in the language of St. Luke's Gospel; though in being told and retold, it easily takes on a life of its own in oral transmissions, in paraphrasings in sermons, in elaborations in scriptural commentaries, etc. But we assume that any given rendition of the Annunciation primarily, or ultimately, reads the Bible narrative of this story as it re-narrates the event in Mary's life we call the Annunciation, which is comprised of smaller, but nonetheless crucial events. Narrative painting always seems to propose to be simultaneously a reading and a re-narrating of a story. But Annunciation paintings do not simply re-narrate a story through paint; they produce as well a new story in language as we try too interpret in language what kind of Annunciation story they tell. We know that as twentieth-century readers the story we interpret from these paintings may differ considerably from a reading a contemporary of Fra Angelico might have given them. But as students of art history, trying to understand the general and the specific conditions in which art is produced, negotiated, and received, we want to know when an age articulates, as fifteenth-century Florentine society did, how they read this Bible story; a fully outlined reading of the Annunciation might help us learn something about the kind of reading these painters might be offering in order to please their contemporaries, particularly their patrons. It seems even more pertinent to our understanding of this genre of painting in this period when we have, as we do, full explications from the period of how one not only does, but also should read paintings treating the Annunciation.