(b. ca. 1425, Urbino, d. 1484, Urbino)

The Annunciation

c. 1448
Tempera and oil on wood, 88 x 63 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This painting originally was ascribed to Fra Filippo Lippi. In fact the composition was inspired by two of Lippi's altarpieces, an Annunciation in San Lorenzo, Florence, and another in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. From the first of these derive the pose and upward gaze of the angel, the solid haloes with channeling, and the steep perspective of the buildings terminating in a salmon-coloured wall with an open door. From the second, Fra Carnevale has taken the modest stance and gesture of the Virgin.

What is completely original to this depiction is the idea of staging the Annunciation in a street bordered by elegant colonnades rather than in the Virgin's bedroom, a cloister, an enclosed garden, or a church-like interior, as was traditional. The buildings, with their salmon and pink trim, are distinctly Florentine in style, although completely unlike those in Lippi's work. The ornamented arches of two of the buildings recall those in the background of Ghiberti's relief of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba on the Gates of Paradise of the Baptistery in Florence. The perspective system is rigorous: a pinhole indicating the vanishing point has been made in the right doorjamb, eight centimetres from the base of the door; virtually all of the orthogonals recede to this point.