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Audio Guide - Child

The Annunciation, ca. 1520-1525

Artist: Andrea Previtali, Italian (Bergamasque-Venetian School), ca. 1470 - 1528

Medium: Tempera on wood panel

Painting: 61 1/4 x 63 3/8 in. (155.6 x 161 cm)
Frame: 69 3/4 x 72 1/2 in. (177.2 x 184.2 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Object Number: 61.197

On View

Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878-1955), Rome-Florence, June 16, 1937; Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955), New York, New York, 1961

The first record of the painter Andrea Previtali comes from 1502 when he signed and dated one of his paintings and described himself as a disciple of Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini, whose workshop he probably joined between 1490 and 1500. In 1512, Previtali returned to his native Bergamo, where he befriended fellow painter Lorenzo Lotto, and the two became Bergamo’s most renowned resident painters. Previtali’s use of jewel-like colors, sensuous textures, and soft atmosphere indicate that he never lost his affinity for the works of such Venetian painters as Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Giorgione.


The Annunciation illustrates the biblical verses Luke 1:28-31, when the Archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary: “You shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Jesus.” Gabriel enters Mary’s room wearing a jeweled breastplate and carrying a stalk of lilies in his left hand, a symbol of the Virgin’s purity. Mary responds to Gabriel’s entrance by placing one hand on her breast as she turns away from an open book on the prie-dieu (prayer bench) in front of her. The smoldering candle is a symbol of Christ’s incarnation as “the light of the world” and alludes to his Crucifixion. With a gracefully elongated right hand, Gabriel gestures toward the Holy Spirit, appearing in the form of a radiant dove and acting as an intercessor between Mary and Gabriel. The viewer is witness to the dramatic moment of Christ’s conception through the Holy Spirit descending from God.


The scene unfolds in a contemporary Italian Renaissance setting, rendered in rich color and charming details, such as the carefully executed basket of fruit on the ledge below the window, the round windowpanes, the ornaments on the coffered ceiling, and the dangling tassels on the canopy above Mary’s head.