Virgin and Child enthroned; Annunciation
Master of Greve (Florence, early 13th century)
Mary, mother of God, is sitting facing the front on a throne without a backrest, holding her son Jesus on her lap, in line with the iconographic model of Mary Seat of Wisdom. The Child Jesus is issuing a blessing, while clasping the scroll of Holy Scriptures in his left hand.
The tall, narrow panel depicts the Virgin with a halo in perspective, an element commonly encountered in Italian painting from the 12th to the13th centuries, which went out of fashion thereafter. The portrayal, at the bottom of the panel, under the throne, of a narrative scene with small figures, the Annunciation, was a rare find in the painting of that period, but it almost appears to anticipate the storied predellas in vogue in the period from the 14th to 15th centuries.
The scene of the Annunciation presents iconographic characteristics inspired by the apocryphal Gospels of James and Matthew: as related therein, the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary in her home while she was spinning purple and scarlet yarn for weaving a curtain for the temple. This is why the Virgin is in the painting is holding spinning tools, namely spindle and distaff.
The work is an important testimony to the Florentine painting of the early decades of the 1200s, and it stands out for its excellent condition, also proved by the presence of the original frame in relief around the perimeter. The painting is characterised by its bright, deep colours, in which shadings and thick dark lines create the impression of fluidity in the robes and complexions.
The painting comes from the Oratory of St Mary of Casale near Greve in Chianti. It was purchased by the Italian State for the Uffizi Gallery in 1976 from the heirs of painter Tito Conti (1842-1924), who had bought the villa with the oratory where the painting was located in 1891.