Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Annunciation

Well here I am, I am sick but I am functional, I am going to go controversial on you tonight. I am going to talk about some paintings that have to do with the birth of Christ. That's because of Christmas is upon us and I think its appropriate. Above is a glorious Titian. The scene is traditionally called the Annunciation and is found in the book of Luke. I think he makes the scene look important and earthshaking, but below we have a Caravaggio who portrays it as a quieter event.

Below is the scripture from Luke upon which these are based. I expect many of you think scripture, particularly in the more artful King James version is a little hard to read. Humor me and read it. I will see you on the other side.
  1. 26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Here is El Greco's version. Mary was probably about fifteen tears old and was betrothed to Joseph. In those times custom decreed a year long wait before marriage, to be certain the bride was not pregnant.There was no way Mary was going to make the cut. Joseph was informed of Gods intentions in a dream. Mary was chosen because of her deep faith and goodness. There were lots of other virgins around.

Here is a Dante Gabrielle Rossetti of the annunciation. This one is less overblown and I think reads better from our 21st century viewpoint. Mary looks shocked, as well she should be. Stunned. She would have had to be thinking, why me?

Here is Raphael on the same subject. Mary is in a palace of some kind, maybe Greek. Wonderful painting but I personally feel it is so formal the narrative gets lost.

This is my favorite, Mary looks shocked and Gabriel is gliding towards her in a slightly supernatural way I love the color in this painting. It is by Waterhouse, the Victorian English master. It is not overdone and it tells the story.
Well as I am still sick. That's about what I can do tonight. I did get through it, I hope it makes sense. Tomorrow I think we will have to find some Shepherds watching their flocks by night.


Anonymous said...

Great job. I hope you feel better soon!

Linda Crank said...

Thank you so much for posting these paintings. While I like the first very much because it captures the awesome majesty of the moment of Christ's incarnation, the last is also my favorite. The expression on Mary's face and her pose are so expressive. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Sidharth Chaturvedi said...

Very interesting to see all those takes on the subject, especially the Woodhouse. Thanks for sharing, and hope you feel better soon.

Tim said...

The last one is Waterhouse right?

Did you ever watch the BBC produced "Desperate Romantics" about the pre-Raphs? It got a little too much like a farce towards the end, but production values are high, and its well done. Six dramatized epsiodes and Rosetti is the best character. He paintns the pic you showed in the first ep.

They did a show on the Impressionists as well (called "The Impressionists", clever title ehh?) that I enjoyed immensely. Should be available on DVD from amazon, but check out the region coding first!

billspaintingmn said...

God bless you Stape!
I pray for your return to health.
Getting sick really sucks, when it
happens I pull the covers over my head.
I like the way you described appropriate.
I want to be appropriate when I
bring Jesus Christ into conversation.(without scaring folks
or turning them off.)
I would like to paint some scenes
from the Bible.
Artists like to create, and Christ is the original creator.
Maybe that's our part of the "image" of God we tap into when we paint.
Anyway.. I find this an interesting area of reality most folks refuse ot look at.
"Don't want to affend anybody" but
without faith it is impossible to please God.
So if you want Gods favor, well..
Merry Christmas!!

Mary Byrom said...

Stapleton, Great blog posting. Nice to see you talking about Gods and posting paintings with celestial beings.
The narratives are so rich - I don't understand half of the meaning intended by placement of light, color and symbols (I didn't take enough art history classes in college). Never mind some of the complex design and placement of shapes. Its so interesting to see how the artists depict this event from the perspective of their contemporary culture. I have seen angels like those in Titian - those big muscular warrior types, but Rosetti's gentle looking being with the flaming feet? Awesome! Very scary..though Mary looks a bit depressed ... think one might have more of a reaction to a flaming creature in one's house. And the hand symbols in Raphael are interesting - have seen similar ones on Hindu and Buddhist statues dating back 2000 years . Hope your health improves real soon.

Deborah Paris said...

I have to say the Caravaggio is my favorite, but then I've always been a fool for Caravaggio. So happy to see these Stape- thank you. More, please, and get well!

Robert J. Simone said...

Stape, sorry you had to suffer through this flu but thankfully you're getting it out of the way before Christmas. I think the last one was a Waterhouse...we'll let you slide though.

The subject matter is wholly appropriate and actually reminded me to dig out my "Keep Christ in Christmas" magnet which I usually put on the tailgate of my pick up, thanks. I'll be posting a blog about Christmas this week, too!

Unknown said...

Wonderful post, Stape. I have been in the sick house all week also. Too sick to paint even. ugh.
This might be the only Christmas story I get this year... thanks for sharing these images. Like Mary said, it is interesting to see how artists interpreted the event and even when it seems they tried to picture the Biblical scene, it is highly influenced by their own time and culture. I have never seen that last one, and it is wonderful. I would have never guessed at all that lovely color in there.
Sick or no, I have to travel tomorrow, so Merry Christmas to all on this list, and Happy New Year.
We all hope you are feeling much better soon....

barbara b. land of boz said...

I have been out of town Stapleton, so had to play catch-up on the post. Sorry to hear you have been ill. Great post as always. We are indeed lucky to have so many views to tell the "Story". How boring and uninspiring life would be with only one! Keep on keeping on....

barbara b. "land of boz"

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think I am beginning to recover. I hope so I have SO much work to do!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you; That last piece is a Waterhouse, I messed that up.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I see you are at the Academy of Art in San Fran. That must be a pretty good school. I keep running into references to it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes it is a Waterhouse. I have not seen the BBC show or any other TV show for that matter. I haven't had a TV since Reagan!I do have a DVD player though maybe I can get it from netflix.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe those hand symbols are now common in the contemporary hip hop community.

Stapleton Kearns said...

A vote for the cutpurse! More of the same tonight.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yeah I screwed that one up, and everyone noticed I am operating under some intellectual restraints.When people say Happy Holidays to me I reply Merry Christmas, and usually I get a big smile from them like I am handing out candy.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sorrry to hear you are ill aslo. I think everyone in the nation either had, has or is going to get this flu. Safe travel and Xappy Xolidaze!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Welcome back and thanks. I think I am on the recovery path.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Glitch there. I am a delicate sort. I try to be appropriate. I am careful not to take this blog into religion or politics, but I don't see any reason to not do Christmas! And I am not going to pretend it is a Xoliday form Sears!

willek said...

It seems to me the religious art of the kind you are showing was the illustration art of those times. Funny how today illustration art is so demeaned.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think the days of illustration art being demeaned are over. Unfortunately most of the illustration market is over too.Wouldn't it have to be made for reproduction to be illustration art though, I am not sure?