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Charles Prendergast (1863-1948)
Annunciation, ca. 1912-1915
Tempera and gold leaf incised, carved and gessoed panel
Williams College Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Charles Prendergast, 86.18.11

One of Charles’s earliest panels, Annunciation depicts a traditional Christian theme celebrating the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, Son of God. Charles, who was not particularly religious, did not intend to convey a conventional Christian message, as evidenced by aspects of the landscape that are nearly identical to those found on a 14th century Persian miniature that Charles admired.

Charles may have also drawn upon Byzantine mosaics found in churches in Ravenna, Italy. The central kneeling figure bearing an offering may have been inspired in dress and posture by the Three Magi at The Basilica of Sant' Apollinare Nuovo. Likewise, the figure of Mary on the far right resembles numerous similarly posed figures found in Ravenna mosaics. Although the Persian and Byzantine sources for Annunciation are recognizable, Charles fully reinterpreted them, creating an image uniquely his own.

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