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The Annunciation

Francisco de Zurbarán, Spanish, 1598 - 1664

Made in Seville, Spain, Europe


Oil on canvas

7 feet 1 5/8 inches × 10 feet 4 1/2 inches (217.5 × 316.2 cm) Framed: 7 feet 8 1/2 inches × 10 feet 11 3/4 inches × 4 inches (235 × 334.6 × 10.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 358, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1900

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This painting depicts the archangel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the son of God. Overhead, the dove of the Holy Spirit hovers among lively angels. The trend in Spanish art toward more intimate and emotional portrayals of religious scenes is evident in the crisply painted details of the book, furniture, and garments contrast with the smoky shadows around the faces of the two main figures, evoking both the physical reality and psychological intensity of the event.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Francisco de Zurbarán was the first painter in the Iberian Peninsula to realize fully the magnitude of the revolution in painting that had occurred in Italy in the early seventeenth century, as the decorative sophistication, attenuated figures, and oblique narratives of the previous generation were abandoned in favor of blunt realism. This new style was perfectly suited to the church's attempts to popularize holy images for a broader audience in danger of being lost to the Protestant Reformation. In Spain in particular these changes created some of the most immediate and profoundly moving religious paintings in the history of art. This Annunciation falls quite late in Zurbarán's career, when his simple and abrupt modeling, dark to light, begins to soften and blur. His palette becomes less strident and more blended, while the nearly militaristic urgency of his earlier work is replaced by an intimacy and tenderness. The walls of the Virgin Mary's room literally dissolve in a flood of cherubs bathed in light, as the angel Gabriel with great gallantry and discretion announces that she is with child. Joseph J. Rishel, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 176.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.