Annunciation (South German Woodblock Print late C15)

        This image illustrates an interesting separation of the act of understanding from the act of reading.  Typically, Mary is depicted as turning from her study of the Hebrew scripture toward the angel Gabriel bearing the beginning of the Latin text announcing her selection to be the Mother of God (Luke 1: 28--"ave gratia plena Dominus" / "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee").  In many Annunciation illustrations, this text is represented as the means by which Mary understands God's meaning, but in this illustration, the artist has represented "understanding" as a beam of light bearing the dove (Holy Spirit) passing directly from God to Mary's mind.  This constructs reading as two separate processes, witnessing/performing the text, and receiving its author's meaning.  Click here for a close-up of a second print taken from the same woodblock.


"Origins of European Printmaking: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public"
September 4 - November 27, 2005, National Gallery of Art, West Building (10/1/05)