“Annunciation”, Jacobo Tintoretto, 1581-2, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice.
Tintoretto’s “Annunciation” is very different to those of other Italian artists of the Renaissance. Usually, the Virgin is shown as calm, serene and located within a well ordered space reflecting her inner state. But there is nothing calm or serene here. The Virgin looks rather startled and what we see here is not the announcement, but rather the fulfilment. The dynamism of the Holy Spirit’s descent is suggested by the movement of the putti in an arc centred on the brightly-lit white cloth of the angel, who is also in motion. But the Virgin is to be found in what looks like a run down Venetian Palazzo. He includes many everyday objects, such as the straw bottomed chair in need of repair. Here Mary and Joseph are poor, but not destitute. They are shown as members of the artisan class who worked hard and lived in humility and obscurity. These are the people who formed the lower ranks of the Scuola’s membership. The tiled floor and the coffered ceiling resemble the floor and ceiling of the rather grand room where the painting hangs. Their state of dilapidation may be intended to express the ongoing need for redemption in a fallen world.
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