- Museum number
The Annunciation, after Filippo Lippi; on the left the Archangel Gabriel kneeling and holding a lily; on the right, near an ornate lectern, the Virgin; the figures separated by a column supporting two arches; above, a decorative medallion and a frieze of shells. c.1490-1500
- Production date
- 1490-1500 (circa)
Height: 225 millimetres
Width: 164 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The print belongs to a series of fifteen engravings of the 'Life of the Virgin and Christ' executed in a style called by Hind 'Broad Manner' because of the broad parallel shading strokes, close in effect to pen drawing, used in the prints. This group of prints have been variously attributed: Maso Finiguerra (Ottley), Nicoletto da Modena (Bartsch), Baccio Baldini (Kollof), or to an anonymous craftsman influenced by Alessio Baldovinetti and Filippo Lippi (Hind). Phillips, Oberhuber and Zucker have convincingly ascribed the group to Francesco Rosselli, like many other early engravings catalogued by Hind under the term 'Broad Manner', and this attribution has generally been accepted by modern print scholars (a good synopsis of the attributional debate is given by M. J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, pp. 1-10). Rosselli was a Florentine painter, miniaturist, engraver and cartographer - brother of the famous painter Cosimo Rosselli - also responsible for a 'Map of the World' (1506), the earliest print planisphere to show the recent discoveries of the New World. The fifteen engravings, depicting the story of Mary and Christ from the Annunciation through to the Coronation of the Virgin, are followed by two additional prints of ornamental border panels intended to be cut out and used as frames for the narratives.
According to Archer ("Print Quarterly", V, 1988, 4, pp. 395-402), the images coincide exactly with the Mysteries of the Rosary upon which worshippers were asked to meditate on while reciting the Rosary. These images divided into three groups of five: the 'Joyful Mysteries', comprising 'The Annunciation', 'The Visitation', 'The Nativity', 'The Presentation in the Temple' and 'The Infant Christ Preaching in the Temple'; the 'Sorrowful Mysteries', comprising 'The Agony in the Garden', 'The Flagellation', 'The Mocking of Christ', 'The Bearing of the Cross' and the 'Crucifixion'; and the 'Glorious Mysteries', comprising 'The Resurrection', 'The Ascension of Christ', 'The Pentecost', 'The Assumption of the Virgin' and the 'Coronation'. It is interesting to note that in the Rosselli's workshop inventory, taken at the death of Francesco's son Alessandro in 1525, there is an entry describing "10 forme di rosai dopi, stanpe di 1/2 foglio comune" (ten double-sided plates of the mysteries of the rosary, prints of 1/2 common folio). This might not, however, refer to the present series as the number of prints do not tally.
As Archer suggested, the prints cannot possibly have been conceived before the mid-to late 1480s; indeed, this particular form of devotion to the Rosary did not take hold in Italy until late in the fifteenth century, and the first Confraternity of the Rosary founded in Florence was approved only in 1485.
The series exists in three states, and these can - according to Oberhuber - be assigned on stylistic grounds to various stages of the artist's career. The first states are characterised by lightly engraved lines with the hatching close together. The second and third state show the artist progressively cutting the plates more deeply (perhaps to increase the printrun), with the lines placed further apart giving space for a return stroke like that found in pen drawings. What Hind described as 'coarse' reworking in the third state may be due to workshop intervention. The first state may be dated around 1485, the other two probably not before 1490-1500. Hind supposed that certain copper plates may have been engraved on both sides. The BM possesses a complete series that includes examples of various states and a hand-coloured version of the Annunciation mounted on wood. Other sets are in Hamburg (mounted on canvas and coloured), Vienna (that owns also a group of falsified impression with pen and ink additions as first states), Rothschild collection in the Louvre and Paris (a complete series belonging for the most part to the third state).
For a recent discussion of the series see K. Oberhuber, "Francesco Rosselli", in J. Levenson, K. Oberhuber, J. Sheehan, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 'Early Italian Engravings from the National Gallery of Art', 1973, pp. 47-59; M. Cirillo Archer, 'The Dating of a Florentine Life of the Virgin and Christ', "Print Quarterly", V, 1988, 4, pp. 395-402; M. J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, pp. 1-10; G. Lambert, Les Premières Gravures Italiennes quattrocento-début de cinquecento, Inventaire de la collection du department des Estampes et de la Photographie, Paris, 1999, pp. 107-114, 219-235.
The present engraving is the second state of the print. Examples of the first state are in Hamburg (hand-coloured and mounted on canvas), in the Rothschild collection (Louvre, Paris) and in Vienna. Shading has been added to the upper part of the Virgin's left sleeve and on the ground in front of Mary's foot. The image is clearly based on Fra Filippo Lippi's altarpiece of c. 1440 in the Martelli chapel of the Florentine church of S. Lorenzo. Hind also suggested that the figure of the Angel might be compared with the intarsia 'Annunciation' in the Sacristy of the Duomo of Florence executed by Giuliano da Majano after Finiguerra's design.
This print was issued as a black and white facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Prints in the British Museum', New [Second] Series Part I (Early Italian Prints), Published by the Trustees in 1886, where it was number IV and described there as 'Florentine School, XV. Century. The Annunciation.'; (Shelfmark 245*.b.15).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1987/8 Nov-Feb, V&A, 'The Image Multiplied'
1994 Aug-Oct, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, The Renaissance Print
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number