Family Audio Tour: The Annunciation

Gilded altarpiece showing Angel Gabriel telling Mary she will have a son.
Jacques Yverni (fl.1410-1438), The Annunciation, c.1435. Photo © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Jacques Yverni (fl.1410-1438), The Annunciation, c.1435

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Transcript

Eoin:
Wow, this painting looks amazing! Is it made from real gold? 

Ide:
Yes and no. When it was made, almost six hundred years ago, artists usually painted on wood. They’d smooth it down and cover it with a chalky white layer before covering it with very thin pieces of gold. Pieces so thin and light, they float in the air like feathers.

Eoin:
It’s so shiny.

Ide:
And it would have looked even shinier back then because it would have been lit by candles – probably in a church – so the flames would have flickered and reflected off the gold. But can you work out who the people are?

Eoin:
Well the figure in the middle has got wings – an angel then – and is bringing a message to the woman. Who’s she?

Ide:

Look for the clues. She’s got a halo: so she’s holy. There’s a white lily in a pot next to her, which tells us she’s pure. And she’s wearing blue, like she always does. 

Eoin: 
I know! It’s Mary, Jesus’s mum.

Ide:
Yes. One day, Mary was reading her book, and God – who’s up in a cloud at the top – sent the angel Gabriel to tell her she was going to have a baby – baby Jesus.

Eoin:
And who are the other people? Two of them are tiny.

Ide:
They’re smaller because they’re less important than Mary: they were real people who lived in the real world. It was they who paid the artist to paint this picture, and they asked him to put them in it.

Eoin:
So who’s the tall man behind them, with a blob on his head?

Ide:
Not a blob but a stone, and that’s another clue. He’s a saint who was stoned to death for being a Christian when most people weren’t – and the stone is his symbol. His name is Saint Stephen.

Eoin:
Hm, maybe I can have a symbol too.  I think it would have to be a paint brush – because I want to be an artist.

Ide:
And you, what would you choose as your symbol? Tell whoever you’re with.

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