An annunciation is an announcement, a proclamation. In Christianity, the annunciation is the moment the angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary, telling her that she will bear the son of God. A feast to celebrate this event is observed on March 25, and it is an important subject of paintings and reliefs made for churches and private devotion. Mary is usually depicted reading or holding a book. A lectern, a lily (purity), a walled garden (Mary’s virginity) or a dove (the Holy Spirit) are common features of these works. Florence’s museums and churches abound with portrayals of the annunciation.
For example Simone Martini’s masterful Annunciation (1333), in the Uffizi, is on a rich gold background of gilded gesso, where the words ave gratia plena dominus tecum (‘Greetings most favored one. The Lord is with thee’) are drawn in a straight line from Gabriel’s mouth to Mary’s ear. Lorenzo Ghiberti’s gilded bronze Annunciation (1403–24) on the north door of the Baptistry of the Duomo is both delicate in detail and strong in gesture. Donatello’s masterfully carved Annunciation (1435), in the Cavalcanti Chapel in Chiesa Santa Croce, is richly decorated with gilding on stone, depicting the exquisite grace and humility of Mary. In the Capponi Chapel in Chiesa Santa Felicita is Pontormo’s breathtakingly beautiful Annunciation fresco (1527).