Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Master of the Lanckoronski Annunciation at the Legion

Master of the Lanckoronski Annunciation (Italian, Florentine, second quarter 15th century

In the Gospel According to Luke, Archangel Gabriel, God's messenger, announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear God's Child. Gabriel (left) swiftly enters the courtyard to make his announcement. This is one of the earliest pictures to portray the illusion of a body in movement. The courtyard has all the elements of Renaissance perspective. 

All of the lines accurately converge on a single vanishing point. Scale, however, is to be a bit off. Gabriel and the Virgin are too large relative to the architecture. The golden rays and the white dove on the left make this picture very special. Not only do they represent the Holy Spirit, but they also offer a single light source. For the first time we see a shadow behind the Virgin, a confirmation of the period's acceptance of humanity and realism in art. Artists of the Renaissance were able to take religious themes and put them in a setting familiar to contemporary society.

The three lilies are an attribute, or symbol, of the Virgin's purity and the trinity.

A similar painting at the Met has been now recognized as the work of Pesellino, executed while he was apprenticed in his grandfather's studio. The artist known as Pesellino was born Francesco di Stefano in Florence about 1422. Following the death of his father, before 1427, he was raised by—and later apprenticed to—his maternal grandfather, the painter Giuliano d'Arrigo, called Il Pesello, from whose name the diminutive, Pesellino, is derived. Giuliano d'Arrigo died in 1446, leaving his workshop to his grandson, who may have shared it briefly with Zanobi Strozzi, recently arrived in Florence from Fiesole. In 1453, Pesellino formed a business partnership with the artists Piero di Lorenzo and Zanobi del Migliore, and in 1455 he accepted the commission for the only documented painting by him that survives, an altarpiece of the Trinity now in the National Gallery, London. Pesellino died at the age of thirty-five in 1457.

Over the course of his brief career, Pesellino successfully adapted to his own the styles of several major artists, primarily Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi. Fra Angelico was the preeminent Florentine painter during Pesellino's formative years, and Pesellino seems to have enjoyed a short-term partnership (1446—48) with Angelico's sometime assistant Zanobi Strozzi. By 1450, he had swung decisively into the orbit of Fra Filippo Lippi, producing the works of art by which he is best known and most appreciated today. Pesellino's self-conscious efforts at blending these disparate strains of Florentine painting proved to be highly influential for the following generation of artists in Florence, who more often than not based their own efforts on Pesellino's example rather than on those of either of his predecessors.

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