LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
Tempera on wood, 98 x 217 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The archangel Gabriel is kneeling as a dignified profile figure and raising his right hand in greeting to Mary, indicating her divine pregnancy. The Virgin has stopped reading and reacts to the Annunciation with an expression of deep respect and by gesturing with her left hand. There is a conspicuous perspectival mistake: her right arm had to be painted too long proportionally, so that, despite her seated position, it would still be able to depict the impressive position other hand over the prie-dieu. Leonardo depicted Mary in a three-quarter profile in front of the corner of a room. All three spatial coordinates - height, width and depth - converge on this point, thus creating a sense of depth in the picture as well as enhancing the importance of Mary. Her head clearly contrasts with the dark wall and her body is emphatically framed by the cornerstones whose parallel lines are converging on her.
The work came to the Uffizi in 1867 from the monastery of San Bartolomeo of Monteoliveto, near Florence. It was ascribed to Domenico Ghirlandaio until 1869, when some critics recognised it as a youthful work by Leonardo, executed around 1472-1475, when he was still an apprentice in the workshop of his master, Andrea del Verrocchio. The sacred scene is set in the garden of a Florentine palace, with a landscape on the background which is already peculiarly Leonardesque, for the magic and unreal atmosphere created by mountains, water and sky. Leonardo's personality is pointed out also in the beautiful drapery of the Virgin and the Angel, while the marble table in front of her probably quotes the tomb of Piero and Giovanni dei Medici in the church of San Lorenzo sculpted by Verrocchio in this period.