An angel is announcing to Mary that she will give birth to the Christ child. She appears to be recoiling as if disturbed from sleep. This is a radical reinterpretation of the subject. Dante Gabriel Rossetti rejected the tradition of representing the Virgin passively receiving the news. Instead he wanted the picture to have a supernatural realism.White is the dominant colour here, communicating the idea of feminine purity. This is reinforced by the lily embroidery - the same one the Virgin is shown making in Rossetti's painting of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, on display nearby.