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The Annunciation
Duccio
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The Archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she will conceive the Son of God; she holds a Bible open at words from the prophet Isaiah which echo Gabriel’s: ‘Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son...’

The conception takes place at the moment she hears the words, which is why a tiny white dove, representing the Holy Ghost, flies towards her ear. Her fearful gesture is at the same time one of acceptance: her arm has drawn her cloak open to reveal her red dress beneath, highlighting her womb.

The panel was the first in a series of scenes of the infancy of Christ on the front of the predella (lowest part) of the Maestà. The Maestà was a five-tiered, double-sided altarpiece, and the focus of the devotion of the Virgin in Siena. It is the only known signed work by the city’s leading artist, Duccio di Buoninsegna.

Key facts
Artist Duccio
Artist dates active 1278; died 1319
Full title The Annunciation
Group Maestà Predella Panels
Date made 1307/8-11
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 44.5 x 45.8 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1883
Inventory number NG1139
Location in Gallery Room 52
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Maestà Predella Panels

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These three small panels come from the altarpiece known as the Maestà (‘Majesty’), made for Siena Cathedral. It is the only surviving signed work by the city’s leading artist, Duccio di Buoninsegna. These paintings formed part of the predella, the lowest part of the altarpiece.

The Maestà was painted on both sides: The Annunciation comes from the front predella, while the Healing of the Man born Blind and the Transfiguration were originally placed next to each other on the back of the predella. The predella itself was shaped like a rectangular box, with images on both sides, providing support for the large, double-sided picture.

When the picture was completed in 1311 it was carried in a festive procession across the streets of Siena to the cathedral, where it was placed above the high altar. There it became the focus of the Siena’s devotion to the Virgin Mary, who was considered the protector of the city.