The usual subject of the announcement to the Virgin Mary by archangel Gabriel is set in a renaissance palace, overlooking a garden, closed by a crenellated wall at the end. The portico, through which the archangel Gabriel appears, leads into Mary’s room. Behind the Virgin is the tall wooden bed, surrounded by chests and protected by a curtain, shown here moved to one side. The setting therefore offers us some useful information of the fashions in vogue for furnishings in the noble palaces of the Renaissance, including precious carpets, such as the one on which Mary is shown kneeling. The painting is rich with symbolic references to the mother of God, although these are masked behind the everyday appearance of the setting. The walled garden symbolises Mary’s purity, while the awning suggests a parallel between Mary, who carries the Christ Child in her womb, and the drape that covered the Ark of the Covenant.
This fresco is usually considered as related to a certified payment to Sandro Botticelli, made in 1481, shortly before the painter departed for Rome, where he worked on the decorations of the Sistine Chapel.
The large mural was originally under a loggia to the front of the church of San Martino in the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Florence, but subsequent architectural changes to the building partly concealed the fresco. It was therefore removed from its wall and restored in 1920.
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