This anonymous painting once hung over the altar of a church; it depicts the Annunciation, one of the most sacred events in the Christian faith. The Archangel Gabriel, on the left, is sent by God to tell the Virgin Mary that she is going to be the mother of Jesus-Christ. At first, Mary is confused, and draws her right hand away in the opposite direction from the angel. She soon accepts her destiny, however, in a moment that has been understood as the beginning of a new era.
The altarpiece was painted in the Tuscan city of Lucca around 1500, at a time when the Renaissance was in full swing. The proportions of the bodies are anatomically correct; the space is depicted realistically following the rules of mathematical perspective and leading the eye into a deep landscape in the background. Several motifs from Antiquity are noticeable, from Mary’s throne decorated with a gryphon, a mythical creature, to the very architecture of the room.
But faith in the Renaissance has not eradicated every symbol from the Middle Ages. In the background on the left we can see a parrot, a bird traditionally associated with the moment of the Annunciation because it was supposed to have been able to pronounce the word that the Angel Gabriel said when he greeted the Virgin Mary - “ave” (“hail”). The Renaissance, then, embodied a religion of progress, in which mediaeval superstition was still very much alive.