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virgin annunciate in Italian art of the late middle ages and renaissance, The

The story of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke has been portrayed richly and variously in the visual arts from the earliest centuries of Christianity. Told from the perspective of the Virgin Mary, Luke's brief tale lays the foundation for the wealth of doctrine, liturgy, and Catholic lore that have surrounded the mother of Jesus to the present day. With the rise of the cult of the Virgin during the Middle Ages in Roman Catholicism, depictions of the scene became especially prominent in Italy, and the Annunciation continued to occupy a principal position in church art through the Renaissance. The Annunciation held two meanings for the faithful. As the story of the conception of Jesus, it represents a central tenet of Christianity, the Incarnation of Christ.Yet it also contains the ideal of womanhood, chastity, and submissiveness, revealed in Mary's virginity and humble acquiescence to the divine commandment. With the new humanist style of art introduced in the early Renaissance, however, Gabriel's approach to Mary takes on a new, more earthly dimension, displaying the drama of a human encounter. While Mary continues to play the sacred role of Virgin Mother decreed for her in Scripture, we may also witness in Gabriel and Mary the suitor proposing to his beautiful and alluring lady in an attitude of courtship. Certain Annunciation pictures, as I will show, tell a second secular story that runs counter to received Mariological doctrine. Mary Annunciate hovers during the Italian Renaissance between two traditional images of womanhood, the spotless female elevated in the Virgin Birth and the enchanting beauty, descendant of Eve.

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