Friday, December 3, 2010


Title: Annunciation
Artist: Francisco Goya
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 40.3 x 23.2 cm
Date: c. 1785
Location: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Luke 1:34-38: "How can this happen?" Mary asked the angel. "I am a virgin." The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God. Your relative Elizabeth is old. And even she is going to have a child. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. Nothing is impossible with God." Mary answered, "I serve the Lord. May it happen to me just as you said it would." Then the angel left her.

The portrait Luke paints of Mary is significant. She is a model believer, taking God at his word, in contrast to Zechariah. She is favored of God, thoughtful, obedient, believing, worshipful and a faithful follower of God's law. It must be emphasized, however, that despite all these qualities, God's choice of Mary to bear this child springs from his grace, not from any inherent merit that she possesses. She is the object of God's unmerited, graciously provided goodness. Her description as one who has found favor with God makes it clear that God has acted on her behalf and not because of her. In fact, Mary is totally perplexed by the sudden announcement. She did not ask for or seek this role in God's plans; God has simply stepped into her life and brought her into his service. Her asset is that she is faithful.

This painting, a sketch for a large altarpiece in a monastic chapel in Madrid, gives us a unique glimpse into Goya's creative process. The quick, fluid brushstrokes demonstrate the rapid technique used for a preliminary study. Many changes were made in the final version: the image of God the Father was omitted, and the positions of the Virgin and the angel Gabriel reversed. The fresh, spring-like colors are characteristic of Goya's early style; his later works are much more somber.

Francisco De Goya y Lucientes (March 1746 - April 1828), was a Spanish artist whose multifarious paintings, drawings, and engravings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th and 20th century painters. Goya was a court painter whose best work was done apart from his official duties. He is known for his scenes of violence, especially those prompted by the French invasion of Spain. The series of etchings Los desastres de la guerra ("The Disasters of War", 1810-14) records the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion.

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