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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Annunciation is one of the greatest paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Titian that was executed between the years 1559 and 1564.

The Annunciation painting was commissioned for the church of San Salvador in Venice and it is where it remains up to date. The painting of the Annunciation was commissioned by the D’Anna family for their chapels. Originally, the family commissioned three paintings and for the chapels that were in the church of San Salvador in Venice, Northern Italy. Out of the three paintings only two remain in place in the same church.

This painting has a scene that depicts the moment that the Virgin Mary was being told the good news that she is carrying the child of God by an angle. That is why it is called the Annunciation. There are two other pieces that were commissioned and dated around 1560: alterpiece of the high altarpiece in the San Salvador church and the Crucifixion by Titian which is placed up in the San Domenico Church in Ancona.

In the great composition, Titian has set some two bottom figures as angel Gabriel and Mary (Mother of Jesus). Using his colours, Titian has brought out the sight of angel Gabriel in a mudding fashion. In the painting, Mary is seen to be in shock. All these aspects are clearly brought out in his handling of light. Titian has evidently shown a heavenly light that is pouring from an opening in the sky into the location of the Annunciation.

Different people have expressed different opinions concerning the way Titian has used the colours in the painting. Some of the people who have had something to say about the painting’s light usage are Giorgio Vasari and Charles Hope. For instance, according to Hope, he disliked the usage of muddy colours, the mannered pose of virgin Mary, the physical types, the inept use of gesture and the figure of Gabriel being badly-drawn. This was just an extension to the criticism of Vasari. However, according to Bohde, the muddy colours, the physicality of the figures are the attributes that make the composition of the Annunciation painting by Titian so good.

The angel's figure is of an overwhelming size compared to the virgin Mary. The theme of incarnation has been clearly shown by the brush strokes that are more expressive. Titian has in a very unique way depicted the Virgin by showing the flesh that is fuller in her bosom. This move has made the Virgin’s flesh more evidently. It also creates an emphasis that Jesus was made from the flesh of the Virgin. Some of the details are that the paintings medium is oil on canvas, it has dimensions of 410 cm × 240 cm (160 in × 94 in). Titian’s original painting of the Annunciation can be found in the church of San Salvador, in Venice. The Annunciation painting by Titian is one of his great early works that has attracted many and it is used in different parts of churches.

There was another notable version of Annunciation that was produced collaboratively between Leonardo da Vinci and his master, Andrea del Verrocchio.