The “Annunciation” refers to the moment in the New Testament when an angel pays a visit to a young woman of Nazareth and “announces” that she will give birth to the child of God. The angel is Gabriel. The child is Jesus. The woman is Mary, or Maria, or Miriam. Greeks call her Theotokos, or “God-bearer.” Muslims recognize Maryam, for the episode is recorded in the Koran. Generations of Catholic schoolchildren, hastily praying the Hail Mary, called her “Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God”—and the words of the prayer, murmured in church or declaimed over the school P.A. system, are the ones Gabriel is said to have uttered 2,000 years ago: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”
The Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, recently acquired a remarkable late-Gothic work by Giovanni di Balduccio, The Annunciation (circa 1334), which is now on view. It is a sculptural pair: angel and Virgin, carved from white marble, approximately 30 inches high. They are counterparts: the angel glancing upward, the Virgin downward; his right hand gesturing toward her in appointment, hers drawn back in acceptance.