The Annunciation

Luca Giordano (Italian, Naples 1634–1705 Naples)

Oil on canvas
93 1/8 x 66 7/8 in. (236.5 x 169.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1973
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Giordano was the leading painter in Naples in the late seventeenth century and one of the most sought-after Italian artists of the day. He worked in a variety of styles, often imitating Renaissance masters. This altarpiece was painted after a trip to Venice, and pays direct homage to the work of Titian.

  • Catalogue Entry

    Ever since this altarpiece was first exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in 1959, seventeenth-century-painting specialists have found it difficult to place in Luca Giordano's oeuvre. That it is by him there can be no doubt: the signature and the date, 1672, are authentic. But the diaphanous handling of paint sets it apart from the artist's documented works of the period. It is quite unlike other works that Giordano painted in 1672—The Madonna of the Rosary (church of San Gregorio Magno, Crispano), The Circumcision, and The Immaculate Conception (both oratory of the Monte dei Poveri, Naples). The anomalous character of the Annunciation, however, may be due to its probable provenance from a church in Venice. Throughout his career, the facile Giordano painted imitations of earlier artists, such as Lucas van Leyden (ca. 1494–1533), Dürer (1471–1528), and Raphael (1483–1520). Perhaps knowing the present painting was destined for Venice, Giordano deliberately cast it in a style recalling Titian (ca. 1485/90?–1576).

    Christian Michael (1991) first suggested that the MMA Annunciation might be the work seen by Charles Nicolas Cochin the Younger (1758) in the church of San Daniele, Venice, in the summer of 1751. That altarpiece had been mentioned favorably by Marco Boschini in his guidebook Le ricche minere della pitture veneziana, published in 1674, two years after the date of the Wrightsman picture. Cochin, usually an admirer of Giordano, described it as an exaggerated imitation of the Venetian School. Following the Napoleonic suppression of convents in Italy, the painting was moved from Venice to Milan and, in 1814, deposited in a church at Gropello, near Pavia.

    According to Giordano's early biographers, the artist spent six months in Venice in 1665–66, when the work of the great sixteenth-century Venetians inspired him to lighten his palette and to work in an increasingly free manner. Even before he traveled north, however, Giordano would have been familiar with a major Venetian work, Titian’s Annunciation in the church of San Domenico Maggiore, Naples (painted in about 1555–56 and installed shortly thereafter). When Giordano was about thirty years old, he made a full-size copy of the altarpiece (church of San Ginés, Madrid). Another Annunciation by Titian, a lost painting sent to Spain in 1537, also inspired Giordano. Long before he moved to Madrid, Giordano would have known its composition from the engraving (MMA 49.97.219; see Images) by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (ca. 1505–1565). As in the Wrightsman altarpiece, the engraving shows the archangel raising his right hand with the index finger extended, his draperies billowing about him.

    Giordano was also deeply influenced by Rubens (1577–1640). In Naples, as a young man, Giordano would have known Rubens’s Feast of Herod (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh), which then belonged to Giordano’s patron Gaspar de Roomer (d. 1674). The design of the MMA altarpiece may well be derived from an Annunciation by Rubens now in the Rubenshuis, Antwerp. The similarity of the twisting poses of the archangels and the postures of the two Virgins is striking; Giordano must have seen Rubens's painting either in Naples or on his travels in Italy.

    Pietro da Cortona's (1596–1669) huge altarpiece of the Annunciation in the church of San Francesco, Cortona, is also sometimes cited as a source for the MMA picture, and it is just possible that Giordano saw it being painted in Rome, in the late 1660s, or, less likely, on one of his trips through Tuscany (Milkovich 1964).

    [2011; adapted from Fahy 2005]

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (on base of prie-dieu): L. Jordanus F. 1672

  • Provenance

    ?church of San Daniele, Venice (by 1674–1809); ?Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (1809–14; inv., 1808–42, no. 129); ?church in Gropello (from 1814); [Heim, Paris, until 1958; sold to Wrightsman]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York (1958–73)

  • Exhibition History

    Memphis. Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. "Luca Giordano in America: Paintings, Drawings, Prints," April 1–30, 1964, no. 7 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Wrightsman).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no cat. number (p. 332).

  • References

    Marco Boschini. Le ricche minere della pittura veneziana. Venice, 1674, p. 6 of Sestier di Castello, lists in the church of San Daniele an altarpiece of the Annunciation by Luca Giordano, "pittura rara", possibly this painting.

    Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder. Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della citta' di Venezia e isole circonvicine: O sia rinnovazione delle Ricche minere di Marco Boschini, colla aggiunta di tutte le opere, che uscirono dal 1674 fino al presente 1733. Venice, 1733, p. 202, lists the Annunciation by Giordano in the church of San Daniele, possibly this picture.

    [Charles Nicolas] Cochin. Voyage d'Italie, ou recueil de notes sur les ouvrages de peinture & de sculpture, qu'on voit dans les principales villes d'Italie. Paris, 1758, vol. 3, p. 42 [reprinted in Ref. Michel 1991], describes the Annunciation in the church of San Daniele, Venice, as a very weak and exaggerated imitation of the Venetian School, with colors lacking in nuance and slovenly brushwork, possibly this picture.

    Inventario Napoleonico. 1808–42, no. 129 [Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan; see Ref. Ferrari and Scavizzi 1992, p. 227 n. 23, p. 405, and Ref. Fahy 2005, p. 57 n. 4], as 278 x 129 cm, possibly this picture.

    Michael Milkovich. Luca Giordano in America: Paintings, Drawings, Prints. Exh. cat., Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. Memphis, 1964, pp. 9, 33, no. 7, ill., considers Giordano's drawing in the Museo di San Martino, Naples, a possible preparatory study for this painting, and suggests that a drawing by Pietro da Cortona in the Louvre, Paris, was the source for the composition.

    Oreste Ferrari. Letter to Nada Saporiti. April 4, 1965, as Giordano's only securely signed and dated work between 1667 and 1677, sees this painting as of great importance for understanding his activity during this decade.

    Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi. Luca Giordano. Rome?, [1966], vol. 1, pp. 68–71, 234; vol. 2, pp. 76, 78–79; vol. 3, fig. 125, note that this picture and a Madonna of the Rosary in the parish church at Crispano, also dated 1672, are Giordano's only securely documented works surviving from the period between 1668 and 1675; observe that the MMA painting is strongly influenced by Pietro da Cortona, not only in its general composition but also in its liquid pictorial treatment, the rhythmical arrangement of the figures, and the atmospheric space.

    Henry A. La Farge. "Noble Metropolitan Visitors." Art News 65 (February 1967), pp. 29, 60, ill., assigns this picture to Giordano's Venetian period.

    Ann Tzeutschler Lurie. "Luca Giordano: The Apparition of the Virgin to Saint Francis of Assisi." Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 55 (February 1968), pp. 51–52 n. 36, compares the composition with that of Giordano's "Allegory of Sacred and Profane Love" in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota.

    Anthony M. Clark. Letter to Everett Fahy. November 19, 1969, believes the signature to be authentic and discards any notions that this work was executed by Giordano's workshop or pupils.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Neapolitan paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [ca. 1970], comment that "the figure of the archangel Gabriel proves the great importance Giordano's art had for Sebastiano Ricci, and for other painters of the late Venetian Baroque".

    Everett Fahy in "Paintings, Drawings." The Wrightsman Collection. 5, [New York], 1973, pp. 83–92, no. 10, ill. p. 85 (color), figs. 1–4 (details), remarks that it is one of Giordano's few surviving works dating from the decade when the artist's style changed from the "essentially Venetian manner of his early masterpieces to the high baroque style of his full maturity"; suggests that it was painted in southern Italy, rather than in Venice, since it was executed in the same year as Giordano's altarpiece of the "Madonna of the Rosary" in the parish church of Crispano, a village north of Naples on the road to Caserta; hypothesizes that these works were painted as pendants for the same church, since they are nearly the same size and share similar motifs, for example the Virgin's hands in the "Annunciation" are repeated in reverse for the Saint Catherine in the Crispano altarpiece; sees in the MMA canvas the influence of Titian's paintings of the subject, in particular his Annunciation in San Domenico, Naples; comments on the influence of Rubens in the "billowy drapery and the filmy transitions of glowing color"; questions Milkovich's assertion [see Ref. 1964] that Giordano's drawing of the Annunciation in San Martino was a study for this composition.

    Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio in Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani. 5, Turin, 1974, p. 457.

    R. A. Cecil. "The Wrightsman Collection." Burlington Magazine 118 (July 1976), p. 518.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 300, 305, fig. 539 (color).

    Oreste Ferrari. Letter to Andrea Bayer. March 20, 1991, notes that the radiograph of the picture reveals "pentimenti" in several parts of the figure of the angel and hand of the Virgin, and dispels the previous assumption that the Virgin's head had been altered; reasserts the authenticity of the picture, pointing out that the "classical" head of the Virgin is not unusual in Giordano's oeuvre of the early 1670s.

    Charles Nicolas Cochin. Le voyage d'Italie de Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1758). Rome, 1991, p. 324 n. 4, in a footnote, Michel suggests that the Annunciation by Giordano mentioned by Cochin in the church of San Daniele, Venice, may be the MMA picture


    Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi. Luca Giordano: l'opera completa. Naples, 1992, vol. 1, pp. 56, 241, 284–85, no. A214; vol. 2, p. 573, fig. 287, note that a radiograph of the painting reveals numerous pentimenti, including changes in the right hand of the Virgin and the left leg of the angel, and alterations in the figures of the "angioletti" at the top of the canvas; list the San Daniele altarpiece among lost works.

    Oreste Ferrari in Luca Giordano, 1734–1705. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Naples, 2001, pp. 24–25, ill. [Italian ed. "Luca Giordano, 1634–1705," pp. 32–33, ill.], comments that "Venetian (Titian) and neo-Venetian (Mattia Preti and Pietro da Cortona) inspiration abounds" in this picture.

    Oreste Ferrari. Luca Giordano y España. Exh. cat., Palacio Real de Madrid. Madrid, 2002, pp. 32–33, 35, ill. (color).

    Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), pp. 9, 14, fig. 7 (color).

    Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. New York, 2005, pp. 53–57, no. 14, ill. (color), believes that Giordano probably executed this altarpiece for the church of San Daniele in Venice.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History