Sunday, January 16, 2011

Annunciation paintings 11/30/2010

I have probably seen 10 or more paintings of The Annunciation, the moment when an angel appears to Mary, wife of Joseph, and informs her that she is pregnant, by immaculate conception, with the son of god. On seeing the first painting, not knowing what it was, I was struck by the sense of tension between the angel and Mary… she not comprehending, he (the angel is male, I believe) simply present with the news There must be symbolic and prescribed forms in all of the paintings… Mary usually holds a book; there is a dove or bird overhead; the background is somehow divided so that Mary and the angel are of different worlds, but united vividly in the foreground by the news; Often, there are rays of light emanating from the angel towards Mary.

My first inclination is to identify with Mary … to put myself into the state of receiving such news … a virgin … having a child … pregnant ….

She has, in all of the paintings, a humanity to her … a face that reveals surprise, acceptance, shock, resignation, disbelief, refusal ….the emotions that a woman would normally feel at this kid of news. Was she raped? Did she dream this implantation? What would her husband say? Who is this child? How will I deal with this? Get outta here! I don’t think so! Unwilling, powerless, accepting fate, wanting to escape, refusing this commitment, curious about the babe.

There is pregnancy in the paintings themselves … the tension leads the viewer to wonder what will happen next … who she will become, where the angel comes from and who will take care of this mother in waiting.

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