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The Annunciation: The Virgin Mary
Gaudenzio Ferrari
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Interrupted from her reading, the Virgin Mary raises one hand in surprise at the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she will bear the son of God (Luke 1: 26-8). Rays of golden light beam down upon her as she conceives Christ by the word of God. Her lectern and folding chair, of the so-called ‘Savonarola’ type, reflect contemporary domestic furnishings. The door of the lower cupboard of the lectern is open, revealing the Virgin’s woven work basket containing her ball of wool and her shears.

This scene and its companion The Angel Gabriel, also in the National Gallery’s collection, are related to a set of four other panels by Gaudenzio Ferrari which are now in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin. The panels came from an altarpiece painted between 1508–9 for the church of Sant’ Anna in Vercelli. It was commissioned by the local confraternity dedicated to Saint Anne (the Virgin’s mother) for the altar of their oratory.

Key facts
Artist Gaudenzio Ferrari
Artist dates active 1508; died 1546
Full title The Annunciation: The Virgin Mary
Group Panels from an Altarpiece: The Annunciation
Date made 1508-9
Medium and support Oil and tempera on poplar
Dimensions 58.4 x 58.4 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3068.2
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Panels from an Altarpiece: The Annunciation

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These are two panels from an altarpiece painted by Gaudenzio Ferrari between 1508–9 for the church of Sant’ Anna in Vercelli. It was commissioned by the local confraternity dedicated to Saint Anne for the altar of their oratory.

The panels of the altarpiece were arranged in two horizontal rows of three and contained in a large and elaborate gilded frame. The National Gallery’s pictures depicting the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary were originally on the upper row, either side of a panel of God the Father blessing from the heavens. The lower paintings, now in Turin, contained scenes from the story of the Virgin’s parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, who were unable to have a child until they miraculously conceived the Virgin in their old age. They show Joachim chased from the Temple; the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and two members of the Confraternity of Saint Anne; and Joachim and Anne meeting at the Golden Gate.

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