Jan van Eyck 1390 – 1441

The Annunciation (Washington)

oil on panel (93 × 73 cm) — c. 1435 Museum National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Jan van Eyck biography

This work is linked to Luke 1:34

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Transfered over a lightbeam, the Holy Spirit -symbolized by a dove- enters Mary as she speaks with the archangel Gabriel. The white lilies symbolize her virginity. The tiles on the floor show tableaux from the Old Testament, said to prelude the coming of the Redeemer.

Watch how Van Eyck plays with more and less opaque layers, suggesting an unprecedented transparency. The Flemish master was the first to truly use the possibilities offered by the new oil paint technique.

Painted on panel, later transfered to canvas. Probably part of a triptych.

The panel has an impressive provenance. It probably spent its first centuries in a convent in Dijon, capital of Burgundy in Van Eyck's times. Van Eyck and other Flemish primitives often worked for the dukes of Burgundy. After the Frencj revolution it was acquired (1819) by the Dutch prince William, who was to become king William II. After his death in 1849 his heirs sold most of his art collection. The panel ended up in Russia. The Hermitage transfered the painting to canvas. After the Russian revolution it turned up in Paris. In 1930 the American banker Andrew Mellon bought it. He later gave it to the National Gallery in Washington.

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