PIERO DI COSIMO
(b. 1462, Firenze, d. 1521, Firenze)
Incarnation of Jesusc. 1505
Tempera grassa on wood, 206 x 172 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The theme of the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Mary did not have an established pictorial tradition. Never predictable, Piero di Cosimo embraces the challenge of depicting this subject, placing the Virgin on the central axis with the Dove above and the fallen book on the ground below. Scenes in miniature from the early life of Christ are hidden in the rugged hilltops on either side of the picture, including the Annunciation and Nativity on the left and the Flight into Egypt on the right.
A bright, crystalline light emanates from the dove and illuminates the faces of the six saints who, with their carefully differentiated, readily identifiable features are contemplating the Virgin. Those closest to her are the bishop of Florence Antoninus Pierozzi and Philip Benizi, founder of the Order of the Servants of Mary.
The work was commissioned by the Florentine Tedaldi family for their chapel dedicated to St John the Evangelist in the Santissima Annunziata church; the apostle is depicted on the left of the painting, with the customary eagle next to him, together with Philip Benizi, of whom some relics are preserved in the chapel.