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An Annunciation
October 30, 2012, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A meditation on Richard Hamilton’s “The Passage of the Angel to the Virgin”

This picture, created by computer-generated imagery and photography, is an interpretation (imitation, echo?) of Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation” (below). The setting, the placing and posture of the figures, are virtually identical.

The setting is a columned portico, with a garden on the left, and a doorway in the centre presumably leading to the interior of the house. On the left, framed by an archway, is the Angel, with wings extended, looking towards the Virgin, sitting on a stool and also framed by an arch as she faces the Angel. The centre column divides the picture in two.

In Fra Angelico’s picture, the Angel is clad in a long, rose-coloured robe, while the Virgin wears a dark blue robe over her shoulders and covering the lower half of her body. Beneath it she wears a white under-dress. The Angel kneels on one knee, the Virgin has her arms crossed over her breast. The two figures gaze into each other’s eyes.

The most obvious difference in Hamilton’s picture is that the two figures are entirely naked. The Angel- a female figure- appears not quite materialised, the wings and lower limbs out of focus, and the rest of the body not entirely solid. The woman is clearly defined, one hand on her right thigh, the other crossed and resting upon the other, just above the wrist. She is not looking at the Angel, but sits with downcast eyes, although the Angel looks at her with a slightly questioning expression.

What is going on? The figures, though naked, are not (I would say) erotic. Nakedness seems in both of them to imply innocence and unselfconsciousness. The woman is like Eve before the Fall, she is simply herself, with nothing artificial added, and nothing to hide. The Angel too seems immaterial, not of this world.

It looks to me as if the Angel has just delivered her message, and now awaits an answer. The woman appears to be pondering, maybe wondering what to make of the message. The femininity of the Angel (in fact she seems to be the same model as the woman) removes the least suggestion of eroticism, that she is any more than a messenger, certainly not an agent whereby the woman may be impregnated.

Hamilton’s picture is, in the literal sense, surreal. It surpasses reality, showing a truth beyond the phenomena. By using photographic images, it is at one level very realistic; yet the nakedness of the figures makes one look for a meaning beyond what one simply sees, an “unclothed” or unveiled” truth.  Humanity, totally open to God, and with nothing of its own, receives an invitation to unite with the Divine and bring forth that which is both human and divine. What will be the reply?

The picture (detail below) is now on view at the National Gallery, as part of an exhibition of Richard Hamilton’s work.

It can be seen on the National Gallery website at

http://www.nationalgallery.co.uk/products/current_exhibition/richard-hamilton-late-works/richard_hamilton_passage_of_the_angel_large_postcard/p_1035443

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1 Comment so far
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thank you for the comment…it is helpful.

Comment by anne Souchaud de Luengas




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