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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ecce Ancilla Domini

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ecce Ancilla Domini, 1850
oil on canvas
Tate Britain
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rossetti_Annunciation.jpg)
no copyright infringement intended

dixit autem Maria ad angelum quomodo fiet istud quoniam virum non cognosco
et respondens angelus dixit ei Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te et virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi ideoque et quod nascetur sanctum vocabitur Filius Dei
et ecce Elisabeth cognata tua et ipsa concepit filium in senecta sua et hic mensis est sextus illi quae vocatur sterilis
quia non erit inpossibile apud Deum omne verbum
dixit autem Maria ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum


The reactions to Rossetti's painting were mixed at best: everything there simply didn't fit with the image coming from centuries of tradition. And it was not only that Mary had been placed in bed, looking like just awakened and confused after sleep. The whole setting was coming to the viewer with something let's say unexpected, something kind of telling, it didn't happen that way.

Well, the approach of Rossetti was actually very interesting: it was not what people his time considered as tradition (and people our time too), rather his own exploration in the past, trying to capture the spirit of the past and to re-create in that spirit. Of course, it's not about the times of the Gospel, it's about the Quattrocento. The predominance of white, symbolic of virginity, is complemented by vibrant blue (a colour associated with Mary) and red, for Christ's blood. Lilies are traditionally the symbol of Mary in Italian Renaissance art, but they are also considered funereal flowers, indicative of Christ's death (wiki). The problem is that if you want to re-create the Quattrocento in the 19th century, it cannot be the same Quattrocento, it's rather your own Quattrocento.


(Psalter)

(Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

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