He is considered one of the first Baroque painters and maybe one of the founders and in this work of art we can try to understand why
Let’s discover the Barocci’s Annunciation!
ARTIST Federico Barocci
LOCATION Vatican Musuems, Rome
DIMENSIONS 248 x 170cm (97,6 x 66,9in)
TYPE Oil on wood transferred onto canvas
Hi everyone! Today we are going to learn more about a beautiful scene painted by a very important artist for the Baroque style: Federico Barocci. The painting is the Annunciation (“Annunciazione” in Italian). However, before start to talk about it, I would like to say something about the artist.
If you read my post/watched my video about the Baroque introduction (here the link if you haven’t done it, but be aware I am a bit sad you ignored them 🙁 ), you probably remember that one of the theories about the origins of the word “Baroque” is from the Italian painter’s name Federico Barocci…
Well, Barocci is considered, because of the style and the time when he lived/performed, one of the best Mannerist artists. That is correct. However, the reason why the Annunciation is so important is because it represents one of the first examples of Baroque works of art. Even if still having some Mannerist elements.
Annunciation was painted for Francesco Maria II della Rovere last Duke of Urbino between 1582-1584 while Baroque started just from 1600. However, Barocci seems to anticipate some traits that are going to be basic in the new style. For example: deep colors, chiaroscuro, contrasts and a theatrical scene perfectly balanced between real elements and “divine”.
The scene is set in the Virgin Mary’s home in a moment of daily life. In fact, she was reading a small book when the Angel arrived and there are also some clothes not folded on the chair in the left corner. That help to show that Mary was not waiting for guests. In particular someone so important… The room is simple, but it is interesting the deep perspective inside it.
This is a very important detail. In fact, even if the main scene is in front of us: the Angel Gabriel is in the act of greeting the Virgin with God on the top looking down in an expectant wait for Mary’s response, the center of the scene is the window in background.
The view from the window shows the twin towers of Palazzo Ducale of Urbino. It was the residence of the patron Francesco Maria II della Rovere. It used to be one of the most powerful families at that time. Furthermore, Governor of one of the most important cultural centers in Europe: Urbino. The city was also Barocci’s birth and death place, so that view in the center of the painting is not a coincidence…
Anyway Barocci was a painter, but also a man of faith. That is why the main characters are perfectly painted with an amazing attention to any detail. Starting from the faces. Mary has an enchanting serene and humble look upon her face and she is wearing her “traditional” red and royal blue clothing that are symbols of her Divine Majesty.
The Angel Gabriel is kneeling with a modest expression as well while is greeting Mary before give her the message from God. In his left hand the lilly which is the sign of Mary’s perpetual virginity and a recurrent symbol in almost every Annunciation’s scenes.
Both Mary and Gabriel are illuminated by the light of God from the top. The light represents the coming of the Light (Mary’s son: Jesus) in contrast with the dark of the World symbolized by the darkness of the room in background. Barocci is a master on managing the chiaroscuro.
If the lower part, with the main scene, give us the idea of almost a “real” episode, the upper part of the painting is for sure “divine“. God is above in Paradise waiting for Mary’s answer and he is sending the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the dove) on the Virgin. Barocci painted the little angel (putto) on the left that seems to encourage Mary praying her and the one on the right glides on Gabriel.
In conclusion, the cloud is very important because it melts with the window’s curtain drawing a connection between Earth and Paradise. A connection between “real” and “divine” that is peculiar for the Baroque and reason why I personally consider Barocci one of the founders of this beautiful style.