Annunciation

Zanobi Strozzi (Zanobi di Benedetto di Caroccio degli Strozzi), Italian (active Florence), 1412 - 1468

Geography:
Made in Florence, Italy, Europe

Date:
c. 1453

Medium:
Tempera and tooled gold on panel with horizontal grain

Dimensions:
14 9/16 x 11 7/8 inches (37 x 30.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection

Object Location:

* Gallery 212, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 22

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Label:
Christian authors often sought connections between the writings of the Old Testament prophets and the events in the Gospels. The cluster of clouds beneath the angel Gabriel's feet derives from the prophet Isaiah (45:8): "Let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour . . . "

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Paintings 1250-1450

    The archangel Gabriel, holding a white lily and flying on clouds, approaches the Virgin, who sits outdoors on a raised ledge under a balcony that has been draped as a throne. Her arms are crossed in a gesture of humility. The dove of the Holy Spirit with a cruciform halo descends from above. A simulated pink-and-red porphyry frame with an incised inner border surrounds the image.

    Gabriel's forehead is marked by the red flame that is common in depictions of angels. The lily symbolizes the selection of Mary among the Virgins of Israel, and the wreath of red and white roses on his head represents her purity. In Dante's Paradiso (23:73) she is called "the rose in which the divine word was made flesh."

    Herbert Horne, in his letter to Johnson of February 28, 1912, attributed the panel to Zanobi Strozzi based on an illumination (see Florence, Museo Nazionale di San Marco, Ms. 516, folio 3 recto) in a choral book from the Dominican Observant convent of San Marco in Florence, which on the basis of documentary evidence Paolo D'Ancona (1908) had associated with a payment to Strozzi dated 1453. Two other images (see Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, Ms. w.767, folios 4 verso and 5 recto; Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 457, folio 1 verso) of the Annunciation in books of hours illuminated by Strozzi use the same composition and are a further confirmation of the attribution of the Johnson painting. Despite this support, Berenson (1913) attributed the picture to Domenico di Michelino, another follower of Fra Angelico; most other writers accepted this opinion until Licia Collobi Ragghianti (1950a) correctly attributed the Annunciation to Zanobi Strozzi, suggesting that it might be the predella to the Virgin of Humility and Angels in the British royal collections.1 While it is not impossible that the Johnson Collection's painting was a predella panel, it is unlikely that it was part of the picture in England.

    The iconography is unusual in that it shows Gabriel flying in on clouds. Fra Angelico, for example, who oversaw Zanobi's production of the San Marco choral books and was the greatest influence on his work, only once painted the angel in this way, in a missal that comes from San Domenico in Fiesole and probably dates to Angelico's earliest period, about 1425.2 An explanation for the unusual means of the angel's arrival is found in the text that accompanies Angelico's illumination, which comes from the introit used at mass on festivals dedicated to the Virgin, such as the Annunciation: "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour" (Isaiah 45:8).

    Other features of Strozzi's picture, such as the Virgin's pose, can be found in the Annunciation of the reliquary that Angelico painted for the convent of Santa Maria Novella in Florence around 1434,3 where the angel wears the same distinctive pink costume decorated with tufts of gold thread. Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Italian paintings, 1250-1450, in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 400-402.

    Notes:

    1. No. 252; John Shearman. The Early Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. Cambridge, 1983, plate 213.
    2. Florence, Museo Nazionale di San Marco, Ms. 558, folio 33; Magnolia Scudieri and Giovanna Rasario, eds. Miniatura del '400 a San Marco: dalle suggestioni avignonesi all'ambiente dell'Angelico. Florence, 2003. Exhibition, Florence, Museo Nazionale di San Marco, April 30-June 30, 2003, repro. p. 88 (color).
    3. Florence, Museo Nazionale di San Marco; John Pope-Hennessy. Fra Angelico. 2nd ed. London, 1974, fig. 70.

    Bibliography:

    Frank J. Mather, Jr., and Roger E. Fry. "Recent Additions to the Collection of Mr. John G. Johnson, Philadelphia." The Burlington Magazine (London), vol. 9, no. 41 (August 1906), p. 351 (Domenico di Michelino);
    William Rankin. "The Collection of Mr. John G. Johnson: The Early Italian Pictures." The International Studio (New York), vol. 37, no. 147 (May 1909, p. lxxxiii (Domenico di Michelino);
    Bernhard Berenson. Catalogue of a Collection of Paintings and Some Art Objects. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. Philadelphia, 1913, p. 17, repro. p. 243 (Domenico di Michelino);
    Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. vol. 10. The Hague, 1928, p. 196;
    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932, p. 365;
    Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 1, Romanesque and Gothic. Translated by Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott. New York, 1933, plate cliv;
    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi. Translated from the English by Emilio Cecchi. Collezione "Valori plastici." Milan, 1936, p. 314;
    Giacomo Prampolini, ed. L'annunciazione nei pittori primitivi italiani. Milan, 1939, p. 68, plate 64;
    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 25;
    John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1941, p. 11 (Domenico di Michelino);
    Licia Collobi Ragghianti. "Zanobi Strozzi pittore." Critica d'arte (Florence), 3rd ser., vol. 8, no. 6, fasc. 32 (March 1950), p. 463, fig. 385;
    [Barbara Sweeny]. John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Italian Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1966, p. 27, repro. p. 116 (Domenico di Michelino);
    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, 1972, p. 127 (Pseudo-Domenico di Michelino);
    Carl Brandon Strehlke. "Bernhard and Mary Berenson, Herbert P. Horne, and John G. Johnson." Prospettiva (Siena-Florence), nos. 57-60 (April 1989-October 1990), pp. 429, 432, fig. 4;
    Philadelphia Museum of Art. Paintings from Europe and the Americas in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: A Concise Catalogue. Philadelphia, 1994, repro. p. 232;
    Strehlke in Laurence B. Kanter, Barbara Drake Boehm, Carl Brandon Strehlke, Gaudenz Freuler, Christa C. Mayer Thurman, and Pia Palladino. Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450. New York, 1994. Exhibition, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 17, 1994-February 26, 1995, pp. 358-61, color repro. p. 359;
    Dillian Gordon, "Zanobi Strozzi's 'Annunciation' in the National Gallery." The Burlington Magazine (London), vol. 140, no. 1145 (August 1998), p. 523;
    Carl Brandon Strehlke in Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Omaggio a beato Angelico: un dipinto per il Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Exhibition, September 20-December 2001. Catalogue edited by Andrea di Lorenzo. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2001.


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