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Pesellino: The Annunciation Diptych

Details: the two figures, architecture, Mary's blue robe

The two figures

The angel Gabriel on the left is in a courtyard, but Mary on the right is inside the building. It is not very easy to draw a ground plan because in some respects two halves do not seem to fit together. But no matter. Perspective was a new discovery, and 15th century eyes would have been less critical than ours, so used to elaborate and sophisticated perspectives. Any attempt at the new perceptive would have been an excitement. The two figures mirror each other in their kneeling poses, hand gestures, and in the forward inclinations of their heads. There is something almost Eastern in the way that they appear to bow to each other with the greatest dignity and respect.

Architectural detail

The columns of the courtyard, each in the Ionic order, are quirky to say the least, and each one is different. For an early Renaissance man or woman, the rediscovery of classical antiquity, architecture and the classical orders was a big deal. I suspect that this careful attention to detail and the sheer inventiveness, rather than strict archaeological accuracy, would have been a source of real pleasure.

Mary’s blue robe

Mary is clothed in blue, the colour of the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven. The garment is bordered with gold braiding. Our Florentine would have appreciated that the robe is painted with lapis lazuli, one of the most expensive pigments available. In other words, only the best is good enough for the Virgin Mary.

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