The Annunciation, ca. 1710–1720
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John M. Hartigan and The Thomas Dower Foundation, 2000-01
This painting reflects the new taste for small scale, intimate, and colorful paintings among the French aristocracy at the beginning of 1700. The Annunciation depicts the climactic moment when the Archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the Son of God. Gabriel holds a white lily, a symbol of Mary's purity. The Holy Spirit, embodied by the white dove, radiates golden light above the two figures. The Virgin kneels on a lectern before a prayer book. According to St. Bernard, she is reading the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14): "A young woman is with child, and she will bear a son and call his name Immanuel."
Born in Paris, Nicolas Bertin spent most of his career there. A renowned professor at the prestigious Académie Royale, Bertin was consistently awarded important commissions from influential members of the aristocracy, not only in France but all over Europe. He worked for King Louis XIV at Versailles and for the Elector of Bavaria in Germany.