Fra Angelico: The Cortona Annunciation

  This altarpiece was painted at the behest of wealthy fabric merchant Giovanni du Cola di Cecco for his chapel in the Dominican church of San Domenico in Cortona, originally a Dominican convent. Fra Angelico was a friar here between 1408 and 1418, but the altarpiece was painted later, c1433.  It is now in the Cortona Diocesan Museum.
  As with all of Fra Angelico's Annunciations, this shows the stage known as Humiliato, in which Mary accepts the message and crosses her arms across her chest. The loggia in which she sits, separated from the Garden of Eden, symbolises her virginity.
In the roundel above the centre column is an image of Isaiah, who prophesised a birth to a virgin:
'Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.' (Isaiah 7/14)

The words of Gabriel, and the Virgin's reply, are written in gold:

‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.’ 
‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’
The worlds of the Virgin (in the centre) are difficult to read - to show them coming from her, in the order they are spoken, they are painted upside down.


In the background we see Adam and Eve being driven from the Garden of Eden by an Angel. The Virgin Mary is often called the New Eve: the virgin birth of Christ redeems humanity from the original sin provoked by the serpent.

The predella
It is thought that  Zanobi Strozzi, Fra Angelico's right hand man, may have been responsible for the predella images.

Birth of the Virgin

Marriage of the Virgin

The Visitation

Adoration of the Magi

Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Dormition of the Virgin

The final predella image requires explanation. A legend of St Dominic tells us that he preached in the usual habit of the Canons Regular. The Virgin Mary appeared to him and presented him with the distinctive Dominican habit.

On for a look at more Fra Angelico Annunciations.

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