17th century
Oil on canvas
Framed: 32 1/2 x 23 2 2 in.
Unlike most Roman artists of the mid-17th century, Sassoferrato rejected the fashionable Baroque style that relied on unbridled compositional flourishes to convey religious fervor. While other artists rivaled one another in the exuberance of their paintings, he carried on with the understated compositional serenity and austere figuration favored by Italian Renaissance artists of the previous century. His decision to frame the Virgin Mary in bust format allowed him to focus his composition on an intimate representation of the pivotal moment that transformed her life and made her an emblem of purity and religious devotion. According to the New Testament account, the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she would conceive the son of God, Jesus Christ, through a virgin birth. This narrative, known as the Annunciation, was a frequent subject of the Roman Catholic Church’s art that focused on Mary and a favorite among artists since the Middle Ages. Her hands are crossed over her heart in a gesture conveying her acceptance of her imminent conception.
The Jordan and Thomas A. Saunders III Collection

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.