Panel from the altarpiece of the chancel of Viseu Cathedral (1501-1506), alluding to the theme of the Annunciation.
Gabriel, holding the long parchment phylactery, with the traditional inscription, assumes the role of the divine messenger. Hovering, although with his knees bent, he directs his gaze to the Virgin, whose hands are folded across her bosom. The dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, appears ringed in a luminous halo that heightens its visibility in the figurative field and guarantees its autonomy in relation to the other elements. As is customary, the scene of the Annunciation takes place in the interior space of a house, filled with the Virgin’s bed and some objects that serve an obvious narrative and symbolic purpose, alluding to the moment when the Virgin was surprised by the messenger: the basket with sewing utensils; the prayer book, still open. The visual horizon extends through two openings to the outside, one of which reveals an architectural background and the figuration of a well (the "well of living water"), which symbolizes Mary's virginity. A somewhat hesitant conception of the space can be seen in the drawing of the floor’s pattern in perspective and in the difficulties of combining this with the vase of lilies (the symbol of Mary’s chastity). The physiognomy of the faces, the colour and shape of the hair, red and falling in ringlets, as well as the treatment of the drapery, which gives volume to the figures and whose angular pleats accentuate their monumentality, make it possible to establish a direct relationship between this panel and Flemish painting. Although there is a certain simplicity to be noted in the decoration of the scene, with the highly simple wall at the back displaying no decorative features, some details have been afforded a quite remarkable realistic treatment, namely the frieze of precious stones that forms the hem of Gabriel’s long robe and the realistically transparent veil placed over the Virgin's hair. The wear and tear, together with the repainting work to which the panel has been subjected over the years, are particularly notable at the top of the panel, in an area that would have originally been hidden by the frame.


  • Title: Annunciation
  • Creator: Vasco Fernandes, Francisco Henriques
  • Date Created: 1501-1506
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Location Created: Panel of the former altarpiece of the chancel of Viseu Cathedral, 1501-1506
  • Physical Dimensions: 131 cm x 81 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on oak wood

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