Annunciation by Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi
This beautiful Annunciation was painted around 1333 by Simone Martini and his brother-in-law Lippo Menni for the altar of Sant’Ansano in the Cathedral of Siena. The autograph of the two painters is immortalized in the Latin inscription below “SYMON MARTINI ET LIPPVS MEMMI DE SENIS ME PINXERVNT ANNO DOMINI MCCCXXXIII”.
The work is considered an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest examples of Sienese Gothic painting, characterized by the wonderful elegance of both line and color.
The Archangel has just touched ground in front of the Virgin as shown by his unfold wings and his swirling mantle. The scene seems a theatrical performance, as stressed by the comic strip like sentence in the middle of the composition with the greeting of the angel. The Virgin is portrayed almost surprised and frightened by the sudden appearance. Her movement, so prim and elegant, adds a certain effect of sophistication to the work.
The altarpiece has a gold background, so bound to tradition, and still very much in demand for the depictions of sacred stories. The artists adhered therefore to what customers required, but they used to insert some details that could make the composition more realistic.
For this purpose Simone Martini included some delightful details in the main scene as the marble floor, the mantle of the archangel, the pot of lilies, the half-closed book of Mary and her throne, all of which suggest a real space, otherwise penalized by the gold background.
The garments of the four characters take shape thanks to the snaky and decorative line typical of Sienese school.
The painting is then fully Sienese for the beauty and the gentleness of lines and colors, just in opposition to Florentine style, more related to the volume and the shape.