Filippo Lippi (Florence 1406 ca. – Spoleto 1469)


Oil on wood

155 x 144 cm

Palazzo Barberini

Inv: 1662

In a splendid domestic interior, the Virgin Mary learns of her divine motherhood from the angel, as recounted in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
The triple arcade in the background frames the figures in the foreground and sharply foreshortens the perspective, which opens onto a hortus conclusus, the uncontaminated garden symbolizing Mary’s virginity. Behind, to the right, we glimpse two maids, seemingly alarmed by the presence of the unexpected visitor. On the far right are the donors, reserved witnesses of the scene.
The gold-embroidered fabrics, arabesques and vegetable motifs on the furnishings, the angel’s wings and locks of hair, with the variegated marble pillars, are all meticulously rendered, displaying the artist’s knowledge of contemporary Flemish painting and its influence (also evident in the Madonna of Tarquinia, inv. 5054).
Originally, the panel may have been an altarpiece placed in the chapel of a church. The empty space at the bottom center of the canvas might have been connected with the actual chapel space, acting as the figurative continuation of steps where the faithful would kneel in prayer.