Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Annunciation (oil on canvas, 1898) is perhaps my favorite depiction of Mary's visitation by the angel Gabriel. Mary is a youthful teenager, looking scared and vulnerable.

And that frightened girl is the Mother of us all.

She was the first to say yes.

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6 thoughts on “Annunciation”

  1. I suggest the more fear and trembling version in that she alone heard the call. The weight (without any external validation) of which is incomprehensible. The depiction, with a visible light that *we as well can clearly make out*, lightens the existential load. Sure, says me, I too would follow if I suddenly saw a Star Wars stream of blazing bright light in my bedroom. I haven't so my discipleship is rather mediocre at the moment but oh what I would do if such a light did show up!
    Some fool might try to tell me that the word I have today, say in my bible, is sufficient a source of light and instruction. But that would mean the call is internal. And, well, I prefer Star Wars.

  2. I've spent hours in front of this painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's my favorite depiction of Mary in a painting of the Annunciation. Tanner was a wonderful artist. Last Friday, I posted about this painting on my blog: "Tanner’s Mary is a charmer. Overcoming any initial fear, she leans forward toward the angel. She gives a little half-smile, as if coaxing Gabriel to tell more. 'I’m listening,' she seems to say. 'You have my attention. Now convince me.'"

  3. Scared and vulnerable. What a blessing it would be to be that honest with one another. As it is now with the church, we walk out on stage, find out spot, follow direction and recite the script of unyielding faith and courage; only to exist as quickly as we can to find a place to cry.

  4. Tanner's The Annunciation is currently hanging next to Thomas Eakins' masterpiece The Gross Clinic in PMA's American Galleries. The juxtaposition is in some ways appropriate since Tanner was one of Eakins' favorite students--and Tanner adopted many of his techniques--but there's a world of difference between the harshly realist sensibility of Eakins as contrasted with the probing spirituality of Tanner.

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