Jan Provost | Flanders c1462-65-1529 | The Annunciation 1520 | Oil on wood panel, 52 x 24.5cm (sight) | Bequest of Gwyneth Jane Hulsen in memory of her late husband, Heinrich Hulsen, 1995 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
The Annunciation 1520
Jan Provost was one of Bruges' leading painters in the fifteenth century. He was influenced by Italian art, but the attention to miniaturist detail with a specific Christian symbolism is characteristic of Flemish painting. This painting depicts the Annunciation, in which the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary to inform her that she will bear the son of God. Following a pictorial convention that had existed from the fifth century, the Archangel Gabriel is on the left of the picture, and Mary on the right. Gabriel holds a messenger’s staff. The enclosed space in which Mary sits suggests her virginity, and the white lilies growing near her feet symbolise purity. It was traditional to represent Mary sitting in an enclosed garden-like space, known as a hortus conclusus; this was a symbol of her sealed womb and perpetual virginity. The outside courtyard indicates the earthly world into which God is entering, as opposed to the spiritual world which envelops the two central figures. The Annunciation thus represents, both pictorially and structurally, the meeting of the two spheres — earthly and spiritual — in a single space.