(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)
Oil on canvas, 285 x 205 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy
Caravaggio painted church paintings during his last period in Naples. There is reason to believe that the artist's last altarpiece is the Annunciation that reached the high altar of the cathedral of Nancy in Lorrain just after the church was founded (1609). Today it is in the museum of that city.
Whether the painting was made in Sicily or in Naples is not known. Its style would seem to exclude earlier datings, for it is clearly a very late work. It has been pointed out that the angel comes into the painting from real space, canceling the separation between the picture and the viewer in a way typical of the baroque aesthetic. The angel's face is practically invisible. The Virgin does not look at him, she is completely self-absorbed, her pose is devoid of joyous acceptance. She seems instead crushed by the expectation of an unbearable future. The spiritual testament that Caravaggio left us with this large, two-figural painting, where once again the Virgin is not distinguished by deifying attributes, is an infinite existential sadness, which seems to contain no hope of redemption.