He takes all the light: Gabriel. An angel. An apparition. An “Annunciation”. This scene is taken from the Bible: the angel leans towards Mary and tells her the good news. Mary, her face bathed in light, is bearing a child: the child of God.
The painter has concealed certain messages in his painting. Have you noticed that flower? A white lily, a symbol of purity and virginity that echoes the Virgin Mary. In the foreground is a white cloth, almost a premonitory shroud, so that the spectator does not forget the infant Jesus’ tragic destiny. As an adult, he will sacrifice himself and be put to death by men. While these codes are sometimes difficult to decipher today, they were easier to understand for 17th Century believers. With the representation of a simple chair, spectators could imagine themselves inside Mary’s modest house, as described in the holy texts. Caravaggio’s genius lies in this play of light and shade, in the contrast between the everyday and the extraordinary. Although the interior is drab, the scene is nevertheless divine: the Annunciation is dazzling.
Why is this painting hanging in the Nancy Museum ? How did it travel from Naples and the 17th Century to us ? A mystery… We can imagine a commission from the Duke of Lorraine, Henri II. What we do know is that the painting arrived in the museum collections along with the works confiscated during the French Revolution. It has since been one of our flagship works: you can come and admire it on the upper floors of the museum!