The Annunciation

The archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin that she will bear the Son of God. New Testament (Luke 1: 26-38). Above her hovers a dove who represents the Holy Spirit, the medium through whom the Christ Child was conceived. Unusually, the Virgin's cloak is painted yellow. This colour probably had symbolic significance, possibly as a sign of hope and/or purity.

The austere design, lacking the putti and celestial clouds shown in other 17th-century renderings of this subject, is unusual, though there are earlier examples. It has been suggested that the picture was intended to hang above the tomb of Poussin's patron, Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588 - 1657), in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. Another possibility is that it was painted for Pope Alexander VII, but neither possibility can be proved.

Key facts

Artist dates
1594 - 1665
Full title
The Annunciation
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
104.3 x 103.1 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit
Presented by Christopher Norris, 1944
Inventory number
Location in Gallery