Pre-Raphaelites & the Annunciation
There were three at the first meeting held in the home of John Millais’s parents in 1848: John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. Humble beginnings for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood that would soon expand to include other kindred spirits who shared their intent on transforming the art world. The Brotherhood had four declarations, which were articulated by Dante Rossetti’s brother, poet William Michael Rossetti.
- To have genuine ideas to express;
- To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
- To sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote;
- And most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statue
The Pre-Raphaelites recognized the Annunciation as a profound event, but their interpretations were unique and in keeping with their four ideals.
The Annunciation by Edward Burne-Jones
This vibrant composition by Edward Burne-Jones was completed over a four-year period beginning in 1857. The Pre-Raphaelites were famous for their stellar models. In this painting, some believe Jane Morris was the face of Mary, but others believe that it was most likely his fiancée, Georgiana Macdonald. This painting is at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which holds the largest public collection of Edward Burne-Jones.
The Annunciation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was inspired by the works of Fra Angelico and Botticelli. Even so, he represented a new generation of artists who had fresh views. It does not come as any surprise that Dante Rossetti chose to have a more revolutionary interpretation that presents Mary as being awakened from sleep, with a look of bemusement. The angel Gabriel’s face is turned away from the viewer. Both figures are in white, with a blue curtain in the background and red post in the foreground. Again, the models were chosen carefully. He used his sister, Christina, for Mary and his brother, William Michael, for the angel Gabriel. This painting is held in the Tate Britain.
The Annunciation by John William Waterhouse
Most people know John William Waterhouse as the artist who painted the famous “The Lady of Shalott (1888). A late-comer to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, he was born in 1849 in the city of Rome, around the time when the three artists formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. John William Waterhouse’s interpretation of the Annunciation, in a garden with rich carpets and terracotta vessels, reflect his love for Greek mythology and the Arthurian legend. This painting is held in a private collection.
“Love is the last relay and ultimate outposts of eternity.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti