Label copy March 28, 2009 With an explosively brilliant light illuminating a darkened room, the Baroque master Juan de Valdés Leal captures the drama of Jesus’s conception. On the left, the Archangel Gabriel swoops down from heaven to announce to the Virgin Mary that she will give birth to Jesus, as recounted in the Gospel of Luke (1:26–38). Mary, interrupted at her reading, looks downward with humility and submission as the white dove of the Holy Spirit descends from a glory of light toward her womb. On the balustrade, the white lilies symbolize her purity, and the vase, which transmits light with no effect on the glass itself, is a metaphor for how she became pregnant but remained unblemished by sin. God the Father, almost dissolved in his own radiance, presides over the scene from the cloudburst above. Valdés Leal augments the animated poses and the vivid color with energetic brushwork, invigorating the scene with an exuberant theatricality.
Subject matter This painting, formerly part of an altarpiece, depicts the Annunciation, an episode recounted in the gospel of Luke in which the archangel Gabriel declared to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Christ. Gabriel swoops toward Mary on the left from a dramatically lit cloudbank in which God sits engulfed in light. Mary, interrupted at her reading, looks downward with an expression of humility and submission while the white dove of the Holy Spirit descends toward her. The white lilies in the vase on the balustrade symbolize her purity, while the glass vase serves as a metaphor for how she became pregnant without sin. The animated poses of the figures, the dramatic tonal range of the painting, the passages of vivid color and the energetic brushwork combine to invigorate the scene with an exuberant theatricality.
Physical Description An angel, draped with a flowing red mantle, descends on the left from a bank of clouds. He holds a scepter and twisting scroll in his left hand while he points with his right toward a white dove encircled by a halo of light that descends toward a woman dressed in long robes and a veil. She sits, holding a book open on the lectern before her, and draws back slightly with her right hand raised and her eyes downcast. Six cherubim sit above on the edge of the cloudbank, which opens to reveal a male figure barely visible in the blinding light that fills the cloud.
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