LOTTO, Lorenzo
(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)


Oil on canvas, 166 x 114 cm
Pinacoteca Civica, Recanati

This odd and unusual Annunciation scene takes place in Mary's chamber, represented with fidelity to detail yet lighted in surprising way, even from below. Mary has been reading at a prie-dieu when God the Father burst in from the loggia, stretching forth his hands as if sending down the dove of the Holy Spirit, although no dove is seen. Gabriel runs in from the door bearing a huge lily and drops suddenly to one knee. Mary turns toward us and opens her hands in wonder. A cat scurries away in terror, casting a shadow on the floor, as does the rushing angel.

The Recanati Annunciation is one of Lotto's best-loved works, above all for its refreshingly original and unrhetorical treatment of a very familiar theme. The holy figures are represented in a way that is touchingly direct, almost naive, and the scene is lent a further immediacy by the detailed description of the Virgin's bedchamber and garden beyond and by the quasi-humorous prominence of the frightened cat.

The painting was executed for the oratory of Santa Maria sopra Mercanti, where it remained until 1953, when it was transferred to the museum. The artist had already returned to Venice when he executed this agitated, very personal interpretation of the theme. Although the painting is generally dated to the late 1520s, recently it was proposed from stylistic considerations that it dates from soon after Lotto's return to the Marches in 1533.