The Annunciation (1898) by Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Annunciation - Henry Ossawa Tanner - 1898

Artwork Information

TitleThe Annunciation
ArtistHenry Ossawa Tanner
Dimensions144.8 x 181 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationPhiladelphia Museum of Art
Location Created Paris, France

About The Annunciation

“The Annunciation,” a work completed in 1898 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, is an exemplary oil painting that embraces the principles of Realism. Spanning 144.8 x 181 cm in dimensions, this religious painting is part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection. The artwork was created by Tanner during his time in Paris, France, contributing significantly to the artistic narrative of religious experiences and biblical scenes interpreted through a realist lens.

The artwork presents a tranquil yet poignant scene interpreting the biblical moment when the Angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Tanner’s depiction eschews traditional, grandiose symbolism and instead offers a subdued, intimate portrayal of the Annunciation. The setting is humble and sparse, and the warm, golden light that spills into the room appears to symbolize the divine presence. The light touches Mary, who is seated on a bed, enveloped in flowing garments; her posture and expression convey a sense of contemplative astonishment.

Mary is depicted as a young woman, draped in a simple, striped robe with her hands folded gently in her lap. Her gaze, directed toward the celestial light, reflects her inner contemplation of the angelic message. The room around her is dimly lit and furnished minimally, emphasizing the ethereal light as the primary focus and indicator of the divine encounter. The attention to texture and detail in Mary’s clothing and the furnishings of the room exemplify the realist approach to the work, grounding the supernatural event in a tangible and familiar setting. Tanner’s choice to represent the Annunciation with this level of realism and introspection marks a departure from the more conventional and ornate treatments of the subject often seen in earlier art periods.

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