Other People

You might have thought that the Annunciation would be something of a private affair, but this idea didn't always suit the needs of the artist or the wishes of the patron who paid for the painting. Sometimes, it seems, the patron just happened to pop in when the Annunciation was happening, and was duly recorded by the artist. Other artists felt that you can never have enough angels.
   God the Father, of course,  is often featured. Sometimes biblical scenes were included, such as the expulsion of Adam and Eve considered here.  In the Annunciation by Andrea del Sarto, (here)  the story of Susannah and the Elders is taking place in the background, with the peeping-tom  elders having a leer at the not very voluptuous Susannah  from a balcony. This seems an odd choice,  but Andrea was being particularly cunning. Susannah means 'lily' in Hebrew. 
   (The story of Susannah and the Elders was frequently commissioned to present an example of exemplary virtue. Nothing to do with the opportunity to paint a naked lady, of course.)

   In the triptych by Jean Bellegambe (below) the rather superior looking donor Guillaume de Bruxelles, an ecclesiastical big-wig of the time, looks on, while the side panels show various saints and church dignitaries.

Hermitage, St Petersburg

  Playing spot the saint in religious painting is always fun. This one should be easy:

Benedetto Bofigli
Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia

  It is St Luke, with his attribute the winged ox, busily writing his account of the Annunciation as it happens. The choice of saint  often referred to the dedication of the particular church the painting was intended for.  For Crivelli's Annunciation with St Emidius, Click here.

The painting below left, by Antoniazzo Romano, shows the Virgin rather preoccupied with handing out what appear to be bags of money to three young girls, presided over by the avuncular figure of the donor, Cardinal Juan de Torquemada. (Not the Torquemada of Inquisition notoriety - that was his nephew.) On the right is a Sienese Annunciation by Giovanni di Paolo. Unusually, Joseph is included in this image working busily away on the right, oblivious of what is going on. This may be a reference to the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew: While these things were doing, Joseph was occupied with his work, house-building, in the districts by the sea-shore; for he was a carpenter. (Ch. 10.)

Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Annunciation page 1

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